Entrepreneurial imagination: Insights from construal level theory for historical entrepreneurship

Hadar Ram, Valeria Giacomin, Cheryl Wakslak

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Entrepreneurial imagination is core to the entrepreneurial process but hard to study in the present. Methodologically, historians have the advantage of reconstructing entrepreneurs’ future thinking in their time. However, traditional historical methodology offers only limited tools to analyse and interpret uncertainty in historical future-oriented sources. In this paper, we suggest that Construal Level Theory (CLT), a theory in social-cognitive psychology, represents a complementary resource to deal with uncertainty and analyse the role of entrepreneurial imagination in evaluating and selecting business opportunities. We elaborate on four manifestations of abstraction suggested by CLT: desirability vs. feasibility, primary vs. secondary aspects, words vs. pictorial representations, and small vs. large categories. We further explain how insights from CLT can raise important questions for source analysis and facilitate comparisons, and then demonstrate it by investigating Thomas Edison’s ego-documents. We conclude by sketching a future interdisciplinary dialogue with entrepreneurship scholars and psychologists.

Original languageEnglish
JournalBusiness History
StateAccepted/In press - 2022

Bibliographical note

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© 2022 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • Entrepreneurial imagination
  • abstraction
  • construal level theory
  • historical entrepreneurship
  • psychological distance


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