7.1. Summary & Discussion
‘‘Understanding various types of uncertainty enhances our ability to describe and explain its influences on behavior and to develop strate- gies for improving people’s lives’’
- Brashers (2001)
Through the in-depth field study in a startup company UDNet and the semistructured interviews of startup entrepreneurs around the world, this investigation extends the limited realm of research on uncertainty management in startup context, identifying the uncertainty field, uncertainty source, and the uncertainty management strategies of starting enterprise.
While entrepreneur interview identifies the uncertainty encountered and management strategies in internal(e.g. team, product, service, business model) and external field(e.g. government, investor, partner, market), the Uncertainty Dynamic Modeling developed from the field study in UDNet focuses on the internal uncertainty.
The Uncertainty Dynamic Modeling makes explicit the state of internal uncertainty field and decision point during an early stage of the startup. The model shows how information level and flow affects to the uncertainty and decision making. Finding communication patterns on uncertainty provoking and uncertainty reduction can be used to design business/team development process of startup to be more stable and give guidance in utilizing collaborative tools in the uncertain situations.
On the other hand, the investigation from the entrepreneur Interview offers several findings and recommendation for entrepreneurs; 1) entrepreneur participated in this study face the significant uncertainty in fundraising, target market, self-entrepreneurship, profitability, execution and government regulations. 2) The breakthrough of them was the help of planning & research(milestone, feedback, field research), supportive others (sharing responsibilities with the team, open talk, family) and self-conviction. 3) The major keywords drawn from their learning in managing uncertainty were mission, people, and movement.
7.2. Theoretical Implications
This study extends Uncertainty Management Theory (Brasher and Hogan, 2013) and the Anxiety of Uncertainty Management (Gudykunst and Nishida, 2001) by considering the source of uncertainty and their management strategies in the startup context.
This study affirms the one of the major tenets of UMT; the important function that communication serves in uncertainty management (Brashers, 2001). The result from both entrepreneur interview and the UDNet field study confirm the uncertainty management strategies categorized by Brashers (2001) can apply to startup context; 1) managing the amount of information 2) adjusting to the chronic uncertainty 3) getting assistance from others. This research, however, found that the way of managing the information for startup/entrepreneurs is different from Brasher’s declaration. The Uncertainty Dynamic Modeling proposes that the startup team can stabilize themselves by seeking or ‘synthesizing’ the information, rather than seeking or ‘avoiding’ information that Brasher suggested. This difference in the way of conceptualizing the behavior implies the attitude toward the uncertainty management and the involved information of entrepreneurs can be more proactive and can-do, compared to the general application of UMT. Indeed, the UMT was researched in health, organization and relational contexts and the ‘avoiding information’ concept might not be applied to the entrepreneurs situation.
Also, this investigation adds a reference to uncertainty role in preventing entrepreneurial action that has remained in an argument. This research claims that what makes to act entrepreneurially is the motivation, attitude and the uncertainty propensity (e.g., Douglas and Shepherd, 2000; Knight, 1921; Schumpeter, 1934) not the amount of uncertainty perceived, showing 7 out of 10 participants perceived the full degree of the uncertainty in their formative years and 9 agreed that they have more willingness to bear uncertainty than non-entrepreneur.
In this way, this study affirms the another major tenet of UMT; the nuanced nature of uncertainty that individuals appraise the uncertainty not always negative. For some entrepreneurs, uncertainty is something that motivates them and gives aspiration to them.
Lastly, Uncertainty Dynamic Model applied the Anxiety of Uncertainty Management(Gudykunsk) to the new realm — the startup team, explaining that if the information is above the maximum threshold or below the minimum threshold of the team, the communication and interaction amongst the team would be inefficient, and they might feel uncertain about their knowledge status.
7.3. Limitations and Future Work
Findings from 10 entrepreneurs interviews and the one in-depth field study might not be well representing the whole startup industry regarding quantity and the appropriacy of selection. And the result from the entrepreneur interview and the field study have been independently evaluated. In Uncertainty Dynamic modeled with a single startup type, the complexity of uncertainty in startup might not be likely to be patterned. The level of information and the timing of uncertainty appearance in Uncertainty Dynamic might be incorrectly evaluated. This limitation indicates that this research approach might lead to misleading predictions.
However, if the researcher measures the degree of information and uncertainty with pre-designed method (such as daily measurement or team survey), the appearance of the Uncertainty Dynamic Model with the level of information and the timing of the uncertainty appearance should be more authentic. A Larger number of sample case can incorporate more accuracy in all the main findings and enhance the Uncertainty Dynamic Model. Future study will be the practical application of the Uncertainty Dynamic Model and the learnings from the entrepreneurs interview. Future studies that assess more cases in different countries and different sector might increase the credibility of the uncertainty management strategy.
- Brashers, D. E. (2001). Communication and uncertainty management. Journal of Communication, 51, 477–497. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/joc/51.3.477
- Brashers, D. E., & Hogan, T. P. (2013) The appraisal and management of uncertainty: Implications for information-retrieval systems. Information Processing and Management, 49, 1241–1249
- Dougllas, E., & Shepherd, D. A. (2000). Entrepreneurship as a utility maximizing response. Journal of Business Venturing, 15:393–410.
- Gudykunst, W.B. & Nishida, T. (2001), Anxiety, uncertainty, and perceived effectiveness of communication across relationships and cultures. International Journal of Intercultural Relations 25 (2001) 55–71
- Knight, F.H. (1921),Risk, Uncertainty and Profit, Houghton Mifflin, New York, NY.
- Schumpeter, J. A. (1934). The theory of economic development. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction.