“Then you shall know the fiction and the fiction shall set you free.”: Productive fictions in entrepreneurship and organizations

Paul D. Savage

Research output: ThesisDoctoral ThesisCollection of Articles


This dissertation is a study of fiction as a productive element of narrative practices in and around organizations and entrepreneurship, including some potential outcomes arising from those practices. We live in a world of narratives and storytelling. This is true for most organizations, but especially important for entrepreneurship and new ventures, the talk of which is often about the construction of the future. The future, as an "as-yet-unreal" phenomena, places fiction as a key part of organizations in general and entrepreneurship in particular. The question that this dissertation addresses is, "What is the role of fiction in producing and maintaining organizations and entrepreneurial ventures?" While the topic of fiction in organization studies has been addressed through various lenses, I propose that fictional narratives are the core nature of organizations and entrepreneurship. What is missing from the current discussion on fiction in organization and entrepreneurship studies is not only that fictions produce reality, but rather that organizations are non-real – that narratives about organizations refer to an object that is not only not present but has never been present. Within organizational life the founding of companies, and even prior to that the early stages of entrepreneurship, is driven by possible futures. For that reason, the empirical setting of this dissertation is entrepreneurship – the emergence of, or efforts to create, new organizational structures for the provision of products and services that do not yet exist. In the empirical research, my co-authors and I focused on the entrepreneurial identity work of Finnish entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley. Their narratives serve a present purpose, which is not simply an historical account of what they have done. Rather, it is a current work of recognition. Entrepreneurs build upon a referential cycle that assembles past, present and future elements for not only their own identity work, but ultimately to produce simultaneous mutual recognition with their listeners. This compilation thesis touches on three concepts within organization studies and entrepreneurship; narrative, fiction, and recognition. Non-real objects are invoked narratively to produce reality or effects in reality, such as establish and maintain organizations, identity, opportunity, and recognition. The benefit of this approach to organizations and opportunities is primarily one of emancipation. Recognizing others as able to see the pretense of organization or entrepreneurial opportunity generates possibilities to do things differently and challenge existing practices.
Translated title of the contribution“Then you shall know the fiction and the fiction shall set you free.” - Productive fictions in entrepreneurship and organizations
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor's degree
Awarding Institution
  • Aalto University
  • Vaara, Eero, Supervising Professor
Print ISBNs978-952-60-8682-8
Electronic ISBNs978-952-60-8683-5
Publication statusPublished - 2019
MoE publication typeG5 Doctoral dissertation (article)


  • discourse theory (metaphor, narratives, rhetoric etc.)
  • literary theory
  • sensemaking
  • entrepreneurial opportunity
  • entrepreneurial identity
  • recognition
  • Paul Ricoeur

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