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Creating Something From Nothing: Resource Construction Through Entrepreneurial Bricolage

Ted Baker, Reed E. Nelson

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A field study of 29 resource-constrained firms that varied dramatically in their responses to similar objective environments is used to examine the process by which entrepreneurs in resource-poor environments were able to render unique services by recombining elements at hand for new purposes that challenged institutional definitions and limits. We found that Lévi-Strauss's concept of bricolage—making do with what is at hand—explained many of the behaviors we observed in small firms that were able to create something from nothing by exploiting physical, social, or institutional inputs that other firms rejected or ignored. We demonstrate the socially constructed nature of resource environments and the role of bricolage in this construction. Using our field data and the existing literature on bricolage, we advance a formal definition of entrepreneurial bricolage and induce the beginnings of a process model of bricolage and firm growth. Central to our contribution is the notion that companies engaging in bricolage refuse to enact the limitations imposed by dominant definitions of resource environments, suggesting that, for understanding entrepreneurial behavior, a constructivist approach to resource environments is more fruitful than objectivist views.