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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter July 2, 2012

What Did Stinchcombe Really Mean? Designing Research to Test the Liability of Newness among New Ventures

Howard E. Aldrich and Tiantian Yang


Despite decades of research since Stinchcombe’s original essay on the liability of newness, questions remain regarding the forms and the causes of emerging organizations’ liabilities. Stinchcombe argued that newly-founded organizations face complex challenges that limit their viability, including managing relationships among strangers, assembling required resources quickly, and coping with difficult environments. In the 1980s researchers began investigating whether the liability of newness really was, in fact, a universal principle. However, we believe that researchers have never properly tested Stinchcombe’s original propositions because they have mostly focused on registered new firms rather than emergent ones. Lacking a clear theoretical framework that explains emerging organizations’ liabilities, the field of entrepreneurship has ignored Stinchcombe’s emphasis on emerging organizations. Research on emerging organizations needs to pay more attention to the pragmatic tasks that nascent entrepreneurs cope with and the activities that they undertake to accomplish these tasks. In addition to a systematic conceptual framework, future research on the “liability of newness” also requires a suitable research design and appropriate statistical procedures. Were investigators to follow the suggestions we have offered, we believe that scholars would gain a better understanding of the conditions under which some emerging organizations are more likely than others to survive.

Published Online: 2012-7-02

©2012 Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co. KG, Berlin/Boston