UVA Darden Professor Honored as Schumpeter Lecturer for Pioneering Entrepreneurship Work

By Dave Hendrick

University of Virginia Darden School of Business Professor Saras Sarasvathy added a new honor to her celebrated career in mid-November, delivering the prestigious Schumpeter Innovation in Enterprise Lecture at the European Union’s SME Week. 

The annual event, held this year in Bilbao, Spain, showcases the work of small and medium-sized enterprises and attempts to equip businesses with the necessary tools and knowledge as they transition toward sustainability and digitalization. The first day of the conference concluded with the Schumpeter lecture, a keynote delivered by a leading figure in the field of entrepreneurship. 

Sarasvathy is the originator of the theory of Effectuation, which she first described in a 2001 paper. The theory, which describes how entrepreneurs make decisions and how the entrepreneurial process unfolds, has become a global phenomenon, firmly taking root both in academic institutions and publications and inspiring entrepreneurs across the world. Effectuation is uncommonly accessible, offering easy to understand tools for navigating the uncertainty of the venture creation environment. 

“Effectual reasoning is a systematic way to make decisions and take actions in the face ‘true’ uncertainty, when the future is not only unknown but unknowable,” Sarasvathy said in an interview with the European Commission ahead of the talk. “Instead of trying to predict, plan and place bets, effectuators work with things already within their control to cocreate new futures.” 

In announcing the lecture, the European Commission highlighted Sarasvathy’s contention that entrepreneurship should not be limited to business people or business schools. Just as educational institutions don’t only teach science to aspiring scientists, Sarasvathy often says entrepreneurial problem solving and creation should be taught to all, not just future founders. 

“Her vision is to empower society with the skills of effectual action, enabling the creation of enduring and robust socio-economic communities built on a thriving middle class of businesses, not just start-ups and unicorns,” the European Commission wrote in its announcement. “In her view, entrepreneurship is a method that transcends the business world. It equips individuals with a mind-set and skill set that can be applied in various aspects of life, from problem-solving to decision-making.”   

The Schumpeter lecture is just the latest in a string of global accolades for Sarasvathy.  

In 2019, the Global Consortium of Entrepreneurship Centers presentedSarasvathy with the organization’s Legacy Impact Award for her contributions to entrepreneurship, and in 2020, the journal Small Business Economics devoted an entireissueto the theory. In 2022, she received the Global Award for Entrepreneurship Research in Sweden. 

The Darden School was recently ranked the No. 8 graduate program in the world for entrepreneurship by Entrepreneur and The Princeton Review.   

Watch the 2023 Schumpeter Lecture. 

Read the effectuation collection on Darden Ideas to Action.  

About the University of Virginia Darden School of Business

The University of Virginia Darden School of Business prepares responsible global leaders through unparalleled transformational learning experiences. Darden’s graduate degree programs (MBA, MSBA and Ph.D.) and Executive Education & Lifelong Learning programs offered by the Darden School Foundation set the stage for a lifetime of career advancement and impact. Darden’s top-ranked faculty, renowned for teaching excellence, inspires and shapes modern business leadership worldwide through research, thought leadership and business publishing. Darden has Grounds in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the Washington, D.C., area and a global community that includes 18,000 alumni in 90 countries. Darden was established in 1955 at the University of Virginia, a top public university founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819 in Charlottesville, Virginia.


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