Imprinting by Design: The Microfoundations of Entrepreneurial Adaptation


  • The author wishes to thank Davide Ravasi and the anonymous reviewers for this journal and the Academy of Management conference in 2011 for helpful comments on an early version of this paper. The Research Reported in this paper was partially funded by the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation, Grant No. ECO2010-22134-Creation of Industries through Regulation.


Entrepreneurial ventures need frequently to adapt. Yet their adaptive capacity is often limited by the legacies of imprinted founding characteristics. The question then arises whether it is possible to explain and manage the imprinting process so that the capacity to adapt is enhanced, rather than diminished. I address this question by developing a model of the microfoundations of imprinting based in collective memory. I argue that entrepreneurial founding teams naturally develop transactive autobiographical memory systems. By partially managing the design and imprinting of these memory systems, I argue that founders may improve their venture's long-term capacity to adapt.