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Key learning themes in the small-business literature
Halmstad University, School of Business and Engineering (SET), Centre for Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Learning Research (CIEL).ORCID iD: 0000-0001-6476-2547
Halmstad University, School of Business and Engineering (SET), Centre for Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Learning Research (CIEL).ORCID iD: 0000-0002-7139-7338
2003 (English)In: Small Enterprise Research: The Journal of SEAANZ, ISSN 1321-5906, Vol. 11, no 1, p. 56-70Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This article presents a review of the literature on learning in small businesses. The sources for the review are two major databases on management research: Social Science Citation Index (SSCI) and ABI/INFORM (ABI). In all, about 500 abstracts published between 1973 and 2002 have been classified. The review shows that research still is built on primary empirical research and that there are no obvious core groups of researchers publishing in the field. Our review does, however, identify a general trend pointing towards an increasing interest in research on learning in small businesses. Further, it is shown that key learning themes discussed during the last 30 years related to small businesses are: education and training (of both management and employees), strategic planning and IT/Software support. During the last decade, the interest in inter-organizational learning (networks and clusters) has increased dramatically. The review indicates that research on small businesses and learning is multidisciplinary and in an early stage of its growth. An in extenso analysis, of all articles in the five most prominent journals found in the review, shows few signs of coherent bodies of knowledge on which the literature draws. Many of the articles (37%) give no accounts of explicit theory. This is the case particularly in the early publications. The review does not reveal any 'original' theory generated by the small-business research community. Instead theories are extracted from other academic disciplines, mainly from the field of economics but also from other social sciences such as sociology and psychology and from engineering. The review shows that empirical studies of learning in small businesses are rare. This means that our understanding of learning processes in this kind of organisations is limited. Research is necessary to increase our knowledge of learning in different levels but also from different perspectives in small firms. The 'small-firm effect' on learning needs to be further explored.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Caulfield East: School of Accounting, Monash University , 2003. Vol. 11, no 1, p. 56-70
Keywords [en]
Learning themes
National Category
Business Administration
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:hh:diva-292DOI: 10.5172/ser.11.1.56Local ID: 2082/588OAI: oai:DiVA.org:hh-292DiVA, id: diva2:237471
Available from: 2006-11-28 Created: 2006-11-28 Last updated: 2017-12-13Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Managerial work and learning in small firms
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Managerial work and learning in small firms
2005 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This thesis deals with how managerial work sets the agenda for managerial learning in small firms. Although studies of learning in organizations are numerous, research on managerial learning in the small-firm context is limited. In particular, our knowledge of managerial learning suffers from an insufficient understanding of what top managers in small firms do. The primary purpose of this thesis is to describe how the work of small-firm managers sets the agenda for managerial learning, and how their learning can be supported. Additionally, the thesis explores the use of so-called “Action Technologies” in supporting managerial learning in small firms.Drawing on an observational study of six owner-managers in small (17-43 employees) manufacturing firms, and a synthesis of earlier studies, this thesis shows that three features of managerial work shape managerial learning in small firms: The small firm’s top manager (i) operates in context with specific structural conditions that affect his/her behavior, (ii) have certain cognitive predispositions guiding his/her behavior, and (iii) have certain behavioral preferences directing his/her behavior.The main argument in this thesis is that managerial learning in small firms is made difficult due to features that make it hard to come to a point where learning (in terms of reflection and conceptualization) is given time and resources, as the manager has trouble in finding time for learning, and as learning risks to become low-priority. Learning is also difficult due to barriers related to the learning process: the work of the manager fosters a superficial learning orientation, makes it difficult to probe deeply into and to develop complicated understandings of issues at hand, and makes peer-learning rarely possible.Drawing on an action research project of managerial learning in four networks of small-firm owner-managers, the thesis also explores, in a concrete manner, how managerial learning might be supported in a way that circumvents the deficient situation for managerial learning in this kind of firm. More specifically, it seems that Action Technologies by their design constitute a learning context that supports the learning of the small-firm top manager by dissolving the barriers to learning identified above.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Gothenburg: Chalmers University of Technology, 2005. p. 69
Series
Doktorsavhandlingar vid Chalmers tekniska högskola. Ny serie, ISSN 0346-718X ; 2265
Keywords
Managerial learning, Managerial work, Managerial behavior, Owner-manager, Small firms, Direct observations
National Category
Social Sciences
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:hh:diva-555 (URN)2082/896 (Local ID)91-7291-583-8 (ISBN)2082/896 (Archive number)2082/896 (OAI)
Public defence
(English)
Note

Original papers included. Paper III, "Managerial behavior in small firms - a critical analysis of evidence from observational studies" changed title to "Managerial work in small firms: summarising what we know and sketching a research agenda".

Available from: 2007-03-03 Created: 2007-03-03 Last updated: 2013-10-15Bibliographically approved

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Florén, HenrikTell, Joakim

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