Fast times at InnoTech: mandating the speed of entrepreneurial work in an accelerator
Feldman, Elana R.
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Acceleration has long fascinated managers. Their captivation is reflected in a century of popular business strategies designed to speed up work, including "scientific management," "lean production," and "lean startup". Scholars have paid significant attention to acceleration, examining the effects of greater speed on numerous work outcomes (e.g., decisions, new product success) as well as work processes (e.g., information processing, consideration of alternatives). Despite this relatively robust literature, there are two areas where our knowledge of acceleration is still limited. First, we lack knowledge about the varied ways in which organizations enact acceleration; prior research has focused on the use of deadlines to speed up task completion, with little consideration of other approaches. Second, because previous studies have yielded conflicting results regarding the implications of acceleration, it remains unclear exactly how an emphasis on increasing speed shapes people’s experiences and work. To advance theorizing in these two areas, I conducted an ethnographic study of a seed accelerator ("InnoTech"), a relatively new form of organization that runs time-limited programs with the explicit intent of speeding up the process of venture creation. Through an inductive, grounded analysis, I found that InnoTech mandated acceleration through a broad set of tactics that included, but was not limited to, the imposition of deadlines. These tactics were rooted in InnoTech's localized conceptualization of acceleration: securing funding faster. I also found that InnoTech created both time-based (i.e., temporal) and event-based (i.e., sequential) triggers for beginning fundraising. Some of the entrepreneurs participating in InnoTech's program perceived these triggers as compatible, and thus felt a sense of synchrony. Other entrepreneurs perceived the triggers as incompatible, and thus experienced a sense of asynchrony. The entrepreneurs' differing perceptions had important implications for their experiences and work. By building theory about localized approaches to acceleration, and how they may shape people's responses in varying ways, I suggest that speed is a situated phenomenon that must be understood as such. My research contributes to the literatures on acceleration, pacing, deadlines, and time as a form of control in organizations.