The Heptalogical Model of Entrepreneurship

[We’re pleased to welcome authors Patrick J. Murphy of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Anthony C. Hood of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and Jie Wu of the University of Macau. They recently published an article in Entrepreneurship Education and Pedagogy entitled “The Heptalogical Model of Entrepreneurship,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, they discuss the motivations and innovations of this research.]

What motivated you to pursue this research?

It all began in 2003, when I taught my first entrepreneurship courses. I designed my early courses based on textbooks, cases, and published research, but it was difficult for me to deliver high-impact, transformational lessons that way. Students would launch new ventures (or join existing ventures) and we would notice disconnections between what they had learned and what they eventually experienced. Excellent entrepreneurship courses must prepare learners to perform in jobs, vocations, occupations and other contexts that have literally never existed before. How does one do that? This question originally motivated me to pursue this research.

Strategic outreach and instilling an indelible entrepreneurial mindset in students are hallmarks of excellent entrepreneurship programs. Regarding outreach, one cannot merely make external cases part of a class; one must actually make a class part of those ventures. In other words, one flips the whole scenario so that students are managing real projects that just happen to be coursework. However, two problems with that approach are a lack of conceptual rigor and learning outcomes that are not universal enough. Practice is balanced by a conceptual foundation; a formal entrepreneurial mindset, grounded in the distinct theoretic domain of entrepreneurship. We have designed a framework that synthesizes these two complementary realms.

The Heptalogical Model is the product of applications by many people. It has evolved across contexts and countless trials and errors. In the last five years, as I have moved into various administration and leadership roles, the model has guided the development of a range of courses, curricula, majors, minors, and programs in different countries. These applications generated richer feedback for its evolution. My two co-authors (Anthony Hood and Jie Wu) and I represent diverse cultural backgrounds and they have been extremely helpful in this regard.

In what ways is your research innovative, and how do you think it will impact the field?

We want entrepreneurship educators and scholars to adapt the Heptalogical Model for their own purposes. Modify the labels, redefine the stages, and extend the framework if possible. The model itself is intended to be entrepreneurial.

Problems are not usually regarded as sources of positive value generation. But this model begins with problems. Issues of culture usually emerge when applying such universal concepts, and we designed the framework for relevance across cultural settings. For example, the Chinese word for “problem” (问题) is the same word for “question.” The difference is only in context. Problems call for solutions, questions call for answers. Each of the model’s seven stages is a similarly universal concept and thus amenable to many kinds of entrepreneurial action in many settings.

Our delineation of opportunities and ideas remains relevant throughout the model in a unique way that can affect venture operations even years later. As well, casting a venture’s mission subsequently to its operations is unique. A clear mission might seem to come first but our model, by contrast, takes a “ready, fire, aim” approach. The values implied by the original problem are what actually come first.

What did not make it into your published manuscript that you would like to share with us?

The catalyst for writing this paper came from my assistant. She managed the teaching assistants for a large online graduate seminar based on the model. She told me that the model was exposed to thousands of learners via the university’s online learning partner and that a number of teams were using the model to actively launch new venture projects. I thought that was fantastic. She said, “Yes it’s good, but you should publish this model!” Finally, we have many project examples utilizing the model that go back over a decade, but only a couple are in the paper. The history of application and the model’s evolution are interesting.

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