Bricolage Theory of Entrepreneurship / Innovation

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Tendekai Dzinamarira
Manager, Zimbabwe

Bricolage Theory of Entrepreneurship / Innovation

Bricolage is a term coined by Levi-Strauss, a French anthropologist who introduced the concept of bricolage entrepreneurship in his book entitled "The Savage Mind".

Levi-Strauss tried to prove that "savage" (e.g., aboriginal) peoples are just as entrepreneurial as "civilized" peoples. To do that, he compared the "bricoleur" to the "engineer".
Unlike an engineer, a bricoleur will "make do" with any material at hand, using whatever tools he/she can find, to accomplish a particular project as it develops. By contrast, the engineer plans ahead, gains access to all that is needed to complete a project before starting. Thus, the bricoleur is seen as contrasting with the rational view as projects are accomplished by solving problems as they emerge, with whatever is available rather than what is really needed. The bricoleur practices radical experimentation rather than planning ahead.

What exactly is Bricolage. Definition

Bricolage is a French word which refers to the skill of using whatever is at hand and recombining all that to create something new. For example in creative bricolage, a bricoleur (tinkerer) may take spare parts of an old automobile to construct a new one. In English the term bricolage is linked to the do-it-yourself (DIY) concept.

Bricolage theory of entrepreneurship

Bricolage theory of entrepreneurship explain how entrepreneurship emerges in economically depressed or resource-poor areas. In this regard, the entrepreneur is taken as one who can solve problems as they emerge with whatever is available rather than what is really needed. Such entrepreneur practices radical experiments rather than to plan ahead. These bricoleurs or tinkerers are always creating and solving problems as they emerge and usually they find new solutions to problems they encounter and see connections most other people wouldn't.

The bricolage theory of entrepreneurship is driven by the ability of an entrepreneur to make something (a business venture) out of nothing or under utilised resources and combine them into productive resources (competitive and unique business ventures).

Thus, entrepreneurs can be said to be shakers and movers of industrial strength who constructively disrupt the status quo in existing markets.

Bricolage behaviour has been largely linked to entrepreneurs with extremely constrained environments, but t is good to also note that even established firms can also use bricolage in their innovation processesi to mobilize resources. Proponents of this approach of entrepreneurship argue that everything is a resource that can be bricolaged.

Sub-processes of Bricolage Entrepreneurship

Bricolage manifests as a process that occurs throughout the life of the business from the starting phase (making do), to the surviving phase (using resources at hand) and lastly to the growing phase (recombining of resources). There are 3 important sub-processes of bricolage namely:
  1. Scavenging - Scavenging actually precedes the making do phase and refers to an act of searching for resources or things among discarded materials.
  2. Buttressing - This is done in the surviving phase where bricoleurs make use of available resources which includes existing organizational mechanisms like all raw materials, networks and human capital skills in order to make support of an idea/business venture stronger by providing a good reason for it.
  3. Refining - In the last growing phase, tinkerers recombine resources through reconciliation of existing organisational mechanisms adjustments, alterations and rearranging resources.This is the final procedure of removing the impurities in a business venture or idea after major efforts have been completed.

Integration of bricolage theory with other entrepreneurship models

Bricolage theory of entrepreneurship can be intergrated with adoptive persistence and community embeddedness:
  • Adaptive persistence - This is an active and dynamic experimentation to meet new challenges with the aim of finally solving them.This is done through continuous adjustments to absorb any environmental shocks or changes.
  • Community embeddedness - This refers to entrepreneurs' close connections with their local community and it's interface.Bricoleur's capabilities and social framing influence venture failure or survival.

Economist View towards Bricolage theory of entrepreneurship and innovation

Although there are possible negative aspects attributed to bricolage, there is empirical evidence that bricolage indeed improves innovativeness. Economists argue that firms perform better when their resource demands exceed supply. This situation forces entrepreneurs to become more creative within their limited resources. The line of argument in this notion is that resource constraints serve as a key driver towards creativity and innovation.

Did you experience how bricolage unfold in the entrepreneurship process? You can put forward your thoughts below.

Lévi-Strauss, C. (1962), La Pensée Sauvage", Paris, Plon.
Baker T and Nelson R.E. (2005), "Creating something from nothing: Resource construction through entrepreneurial bricolage". Administrative Science Quarterly 50(3), p330-365
Senyard J. et al (2014). "Bricolage as a path to innovativeness for resource constrained new firms". Journal of Product iInnovation Management 31(2),211-230.

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