Research has shown that differences in decision making processes may explain differences in entrepreneurial effectiveness. Particularly rational planning based processes have been set off against other processes such as effectuation, abduction, and bricolage. However, there is still little empirical evidence on entrepreneurial decision making in the earliest phases of enterprise development. In a “living lab”, this study attempts to fill this void, by real-time tracing of entrepreneurs who start in the opportunity recognition phase. This paper shows the first results. Can the success of novice entrepreneur without prior, domain specific knowledge be written-off to the old saying that “sometimes even a blind squirrel finds a nut” - or can it be argued that in some contexts, or for some individuals, a lack of prior knowledge might represent a competitive advantage? In this study we focus on investigating the question, can a blind squirrel still find a nut? Alternatively, when [under what conditions, for which individuals] is prior domain specific knowledge a disadvantage when performing an entrepreneurial task? The general proposition that drives our study is that being blind is an advantage for a squirrel when the nut is not where you look – that is, when visual cues made salient by prior knowledge would otherwise direct the squirrel’s focus and action ‘up the wrong tree.’

We ground our study in the literature on analogical reasoning (cf. Gick & Holyoak, 1980), and test hypotheses that suggest prior knowledge works to impede analogical reasoning based in seeking structural alignment, as a basis for evaluating the attractiveness of emerging opportunities.