Re-imagining the growth process: (co)-evolving metaphorical representations of entrepreneurial growth

Clarke, Jean; Holt, Robin and Blundel, Richard (2014). Re-imagining the growth process: (co)-evolving metaphorical representations of entrepreneurial growth. Entrepreneurship and Regional Development, 26(3-4) pp. 234–256.



We investigate the role and influence of the biological metaphor ‘growth’ in studies of organizations, specifically in entrepreneurial settings. We argue that we need to reconsider metaphorical expressions of growth processes in entrepreneurship studies in order to better understand growth in the light of contemporary challenges, such as environmental concerns. Our argument is developed in two stages: first, we review the role of metaphor in organization and entrepreneurship studies. Second, we reflect critically on three conceptualizations of growth that have drawn on biological metaphors: the growing organism, natural selection and co-evolution. We find the metaphor of co-evolution heuristically valuable but under-used and in need of further refinement. We propose three characteristics of the co-evolutionary metaphor that might enrich our understanding of entrepreneurial growth: relational epistemology; collectivity; and multidimensionality. Through this we provide a conceptual means of reconciling an economic impetus for entrepreneurial growth with an environmental imperative for sustainability.

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