Looking backward to move forward for real-world socio-economic impact

Dr. Riad Shams is a Senior Research Fellow at the Ural Federal University, Russia. Dr. Shams has discussed here how looking back on the historical perspectives in business and management research and practice can be instrumental to proactively and profoundly move forward, in terms of prolifically dealing with the contemporary real-life socio-economic challenges.

To advance business and management thoughts and practices, many studies borrow and discuss ideas from earlier living societies, markets, economies and their relevant thinking and practices1. Therefore, ‘moving forward by looking backward’ is not new in business research2. Centred on entrepreneurial business management effort, an example on ‘micro-financing’ initiative is discussed here to demonstrate how looking backward in business and management research can be instrumental to proactively and profoundly move forward, in terms of prolifically dealing with the contemporary real-life socio-economic challenges.

In terms of entrepreneurial business management, “Richard Cantillon introduced the term in 1755, ‘entrepreneurship’ has been studied from the diverse perspectives of economic theory, sociology, psychology, anthropology, political science, business administration and history” 3.  The inquisitive minds of today’s entrepreneurs could further be nurtured by the previous entrepreneurial thought of primitive, pre-modern and modern societies through a close look on how and why this term was introduced, and the underpinning factors that influence the coining of this term ‘entrepreneurship’. The analysis of the key forces that collectively stimulate an entrepreneurial mindset and entrepreneurial culture from the historical perspectives of entrepreneurial development – and the underpinning learning approach – would be important to familiarize with the traditional entrepreneurial school of thought. Latter could relate on how those key forces were originated, utilized and augmented in the ancient, pre-modern and modern societies, such as in the ancient Mesopotamia, ancient Greece, Inca society, ancient China, ancient India and other previous societies, markets and economies.

Following this evolution of entrepreneurial mindset and culture, a further exploration would be beneficial, especially on how those entrepreneurial forces and factors were nurtured and further developed, i.e. in the times before and after Christ, how those forces and factors were enforced during the modern societies, especially to form enterprises, and, finally, how those entrepreneurial forces and factors impel to transform to today’s postmodern corporations, in order to delight the contemporary market needs. For example, micro-financing as a means of ‘banking for poor’ has received greater attention in the last decade, when Dr Yunus, the prime explorer of this concept in the postmodern economy, won the Nobel prize in 20064. Since then, ‘microfinance’ becomes one of the key issues in the contemporary entrepreneurship research and practice, especially from the context of social entrepreneurship5. However, Seibel6 reported that “the birth of microfinance in Europe dates back to tremendous increases in poverty since the 16th and 17th century. The case of India shows that the origins of microfinance predate those reported above in Ireland and Germany by more than two and perhaps even three millenniums”.

“Last week in Babylon, last night in Rome”, alike to the lyrics of the poem “Time, You Old Gypsy Man” of Ralf Hodgson7, the ‘civilization’ travels like ‘time’ around the world and creates innovative ideas in different civilizations/societies from time to time.  Consequently, a key focus in the contemporary business and management research should be stimulating reflection on the business practices of the earlier economies, markets and societies by which the current entrepreneurs and the scholars would gain a better understanding of the transitions of entrepreneurial thinking and practices, its’ underlying key forces and factors that shape the entrepreneurial credibility and, finally, the entrenchment of entrepreneurship into the contemporary network economy to nurture the stakeholder-centred needs. For example, the micro-financing concept, which is however, widely introduced by the academics in the contemporary economy in the recent decades; the concept has a rich history of practice, as well as has appeared as instrumental to proactively and profoundly move forward, in terms of prolifically dealing with the contemporary real-world socio-economic challenges.

Such a historical review will be helpful in order to confront the shortcomings of contemporary entrepreneurial research and practice issues, relating to stakeholder engagement and value co-creation through entrepreneurial initiatives, and to envision alternative business models to strategically deal with the contemporary socio-economic and ecological challenges.

1The discussed idea and arguments here are mainly excerpted from: Shams, S. M. R. and Kaufmann, H. R. (2016),”Entrepreneurial co-creation: A research vision to be materialised”, Management Decision, Vol. 54 Iss 6 pp. 1250 – 1268. Around 600 words are reprinted here, with the copyright owner’s permission.

2 Nwankwo, S. (2013), “Entrepreneurship among British Africans: Moving forward by looking backward”, Journal of Enterprising Communities: People and Places in the Global Economy, Vol. 7 Iss 2 pp. 136 – 154.

3 Cassis, Y. and Minoglou, I.P. (2005), Entrepreneurship in theory and history. Palgrave Macmillan, New York.

4Counts, A. (2008), Small loans, big dreams: How the Nobel prize winner Muhammad Yunus and microfinance are changing the world, John Wiley & Sons Inc., Hoboken, New Jersey.

5 Dorado, S. (2013), “Small groups as context for institutional entrepreneurship: An exploration of the emergence of commercial microfinance in Bolivia”, Organization Studies, Vol. 34, No. 4, pp. 533 – 557.

6 Seibel, H, D. (2005), “Does history matter? The old and the new world of microfinance in Europe and Asia”, working paper (no. 2005, 10), Development Research Center, University of Cologne, Cologne, 08 October.

7Hodgson, R. (1924), “Time, You Old Gypsy Man”, available at: http://beck.library.emory.edu/greatwar/poetry/hodgson/ (accessed 3 June 2015).

Article Details

Riad Shams,
Senior Research Fellow, Ural Federal University, Russia.

Date Published:

October 23rd, 2018

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