Since Sarasvathy’s seminal publication (2001), research on the effectuation theory has proceeded to detailing elements, differentiation from extant theories, and lately first empirical investigations (e.g., Sarasvathy & Dew, 2008). Initial studies linking effectuation to performance in specific environments such as new ventures or business angel investments have shown empirical evidence of a positive performance impact (e.g., Wiltbank et al., 2008; Read et al., 2009). However, limited progress has been made in comprehensively investigating the critical question under what circumstances which strategy provides particular advantages and disadvantages (Sarasvathy, 2001), leaving requirements and boundaries for normative superiority still largely unknown (Chandler et al., 2009). In order to investigate this issue, we examine a set of conditions and success factors for effectual vs. causal artifact creation by employing agent-based simulation experiments.

This study examines effectual and causal processes in the formal environment of computer simulation. We model the strategies and an environment including performance measures and uncertainty elements and assess performance for different uncertainty levels. More specifically, we seek to formally investigate specific boundaries of the “effectual problem space” (Sarasvathy, 2001) for an artifact creation task (Sarasvathy & Dew, 2005) and a pay-off landscape driven by fit with market preferences.