Fiction and the Entrepreneurial Imagination

Gartner W.B., Nordqvist M., Schultz J.L., Suddaby R.

Entrepreneurship and Regional Development

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Guest Editors

William B. Gartner, Babson College and Linnaeus University
Mattias Nordqvist, Stockholm School of Economics & Jönköping University
Jennifer L. Schultz, Saint Mary’s University
Roy Suddaby, University of Victoria

Call for papers

Entrepreneurial and emerging organizations are different from existing organizations in that they can be elaborate fictions of possible future states of reality (Gartner, Bird, & Starr, 1992). This call for papers begins with the assumption that entrepreneurship originates in the imagination (Komporozos-Athanasiou & Fotaki, 2015; Thompson, 2018), and that since the future is yet to be determined, possibilities can be envisioned and acted upon (Gartner, Bird & Starr, 1992). This is not to say that agency always triumphs, simply that the future holds the promise for creativity to be actualized. Fiction—as expressed in such imaginary artifacts as novels, short stories, films, plays, and operas—can play a vital role in understanding the nature and processes of entrepreneurship since fiction offers similar “spaces for play” (Hjorth, 2005) and creative future imaginings, or what Gartner (2007) termed the “science of the imagination”.

Freeman, Dunham, Fairchild, and Parmar (2015) note that “the humanities, and especially the creative arts, offer a way to leverage the idea that business is a fully human institution in all of its complexity” (p. 526). Employees bring their creative selves with them to work—a place they spend a substantial amount of their time (Taylor, & Ladkin, 2009). Recently, a growing number of firms have included artists, and artistic processes, in their leadership and strategic management (Adler, 2006). This shift, which Olejarz (2017) termed “a revenge of the film, history, and philosophy nerds,” has created a fertile field for entrepreneurial innovations and sustainable business collaborations.

Organization and management scholars have established that fiction, as imaginary artifacts, can inform research and scholarly knowledge creation (e.g., Czarniawska-Joerges & Guillet de Monthoux, 1994; DeCock & Land 2005). Recently, Nordqvist and Gartner (2020) observed that fiction can be seen as an endeavor to create realities that are relational in nature. This means that fiction is based on narratives that are formed in interaction with certain historical, political and cultural contexts (Czarniawska 1999). Thus, fiction can play an important role in building theory that the aims to understand human, social, and organizational development (Nordqvist & Gartner, 2020). The arts can also create a deeper understanding of character, motivation, values, and beliefs (Freeman, et al, 2015) which can be applied to the “imagined” and the “rational” realms of organizations (Komporozos-Athanasiou, & Fotaki, 2015).

Novels can also be helpful to business educators in developing responsible managers (Michaelson, 2016). Faculty may find it challenging to teach high demand skills like resilience, creativity, flexibility and ideation (Seifert & Clayton, 2021). However, reading fiction has been correlated with higher levels of emotional intelligence, including empathy, understanding of others, and deep thinking (Seifert & Clayton, 2021). Autobiographical narratives, literature, and journalistic stories about entrepreneurship, often contain moral and ethical themes (Smith, & Anderson, 2004) that speak to critical issues involving value creation, appropriation and the information asymmetries that occur in efforts to create the future (Clarke & Holt, 2010). The classical narratives of rags-to-riches, child prodigies, marginalization, heroes/heroines, villains (Smith, & Anderson, 2004), and biblical lessons (Dodd & Dyck, 2015) can be used to develop ethical reasoning among future managers and entrepreneurs (McAdams, & Koppensteiner, 1992). In contrast to teaching modes that focus on knowledge transfer, requiring students to read fiction can foster empathy, stimulate individual action, heighten feelings of social responsibility, and inspire leadership (Seifert & Clayton, 2021). Literature can also improve students’ articulation skills, ambiguity mitigation, and judgement, all of which are important for future managers, business leaders and entrepreneurs (Shaw, & Locke, 1993).


By exploring these and related themes, we anticipate that this special issue will be relevant to entrepreneurship academics, as well as to those in business and the social sciences. This special issue contributes to ERD’s mission of publishing interesting, courageous papers, which contribute to theories for understanding the extraordinary phenomenon of entrepreneurship.

Proof of concept comes through a manifestation of the work, itself. Isn’t that how entrepreneurship arises? Therefore, rather than offering a comprehensive rationale for linking fiction and the entrepreneurial imagination, we believe that those who respond to this Call for Papers will demonstrate its value for entrepreneurship scholarship.

This Call for Papers includes the option of participating in a paper development workshop (PDP). Participation in the PDP (scheduled before the Call for Papers deadline) is strongly encouraged for consideration in the Special Issue.

We look for papers that are thought-provoking and robust because of what and how they add to our knowledge, appreciation and understanding of entrepreneurship. The remainder of this Call for Papers offers some clues about ways to situate fiction scholarship in entrepreneurship studies and suggests a variety of questions that contributions to this Call for Papers might address.

  1. Entrepreneurial mindset and mythic structures.
  2. Role and purpose of humanities in entrepreneur education.
  3. Using citizen science, book clubs, and fiction for co-creation of entrepreneurial knowledge.
  4. Entrepreneurship lessons of classic and contemporary literature (e.g., William Shakespeare, Thomas Mann, Naguib Mahfouz, William Faulkner, Mario Vargas Llosa, Steven Millhauser etc.) or science fiction (Jules Verne, Isaac Asimov, Neal Stephenson, Cixin Liu, Neil Gaiman, etc.)
  5. Storytelling, sense-making, and entrepreneurial narratives.
  6. Entrepreneurship and biblical texts/lessons.
  7. Entrepreneurial identity construction through stories and dramatization.
  8. Suspense and the entrepreneurship experience.
  9. Use of movies or television dramas in entrepreneurial identity and legitimacy.
  10. Exploring entrepreneur intersectionality, marginalization, families, and business creation in fictional works.
  11. Refugee entrepreneur narratives.
  12. Emotional aspects of family firm succession explored with poems and stories.
  13. Key questions, dilemma, and debates in entrepreneurship theory applied to real-world situations.
  14. Critically examine the cultural origins and perceptions of entrepreneurial career success.
  15. Using film to analyze cultural attitudes about innovation, work, and entrepreneurship.


While manuscripts may be submitted directly to the Journal by June 1 2022, the special issue editors encourage submission of full papers and extended abstracts for a Paper Development Workshop (PDW) and virtual conference connected to the Special Issue.

Virtual Conference Submission Deadline: October 1, 2021

Paper Development Workshop Submission: November 5-8, 2021

Special Issue Submission Deadline: June 1, 2022

Scheduled for Publication: June 2023

Submitting Your Paper

The papers must be prepared in accordance with ERD’s style guide, as available at the journal’s website. Indicate the Special Issue on “Fiction and the Entrepreneurial Imagination” in your submission. We expect the special issue to be published in 2023.

Further Information

If prospective authors have questions about submitting to the special issue, please contact any of the special issue editors:

William B. Gartner:

Mattias Nordqvist:

Jennifer L. Schultz:

Roy Suddaby:

Read the call for paper