Book seeks to define a buzzword

Entrepreneurship is one of the hottest topics among academics, policymakers and practitioners. But what exactly is entrepreneurship? What does it mean to be entrepreneurial? Does entrepreneurship always result in a business firm? Can entrepreneurship or entrepreneurial thinking be taught like a math or science course? Can universities really nurture entrepreneurship? More generally, what is the role of the university here?

Peter Klein, associate professor of agricultural and applied economics, is helping to answer those questions.  His co-authored book, “Organizing Entrepreneurial Judgment: A New Approach to the Firm,” was published in April by Cambridge University Press.

The short answer: universities teach – and practice – entrepreneurship all the time, it just always isn’t labeled as such.

Peter Klein.

“Universities are where ideas come together in a holistic way – just as should happen in any entrepreneurial endeavor,” Klein said.  “We are all about gathering information, evaluating opportunities, taking risks, assembling resources, and building collaborative teams to achieve a goal.”

Klein’s book goes back to the fundamentals: Is entrepreneurship a personality trait, a way of thinking, a kind of business or something else? What role does entrepreneurship play in the economy? How should policymakers regard it? Klein reviews the history of thinking on entrepreneurship by scholars and practitioners and argues that entrepreneurship is best understood as a kind of decision making, the way we all deal with the uncertainties of life. Following economist Frank Knight, he defines entrepreneurship as judgmental decision making in the face of pervasive uncertainty, and he explains how this perspective helps us to better understand firms and economies.

Klein co-wrote the book with Nicolai Foss, professor at the department of strategic management and globalization at the Copenhagen Business School and professor at the Norwegian School of Economics, where Klein also holds an appointment. Their book has been praised by reviewers.

“Their search of the literature is nothing short of stupendous; they show how, why, and where hundreds of economists fit into their analytic framework, while dazzlingly criticizing large numbers of them for sins of commission and omission — all of it made understandable to the reader,” said Walter Block, professor of economics at Loyola University in New Orleans, in a recent review on Barrons.com.

Klein also contributed a chapter to another recently published book, “The 4% Solution: Unleashing the Economic Growth America Needs.” The book offers clear ideas on how to revive America’s struggling economy. The book draws on some of the best minds in the business, including five Nobel laureates and Klein who contributed the chapter, “Entrepreneurs and Creative Destruction.”

Klein’s research areas include the economics of organization, entrepreneurship and business strategy.  He teaches Economics of Managerial Decision Making. He also serves as director of the McQuinn Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership.