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Networks and entrepreneurial learning: coping with difficulties

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>10/04/2017
<mark>Journal</mark>International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behaviour and Research
Issue number3
Volume23
Number of pages19
Pages (from-to)547-565
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English

Abstract

Purpose
Many scholars analyse networks and learning to understand how individuals successfully create and manage new ventures. Based on the assumption that entrepreneurs learn from networks, this study examines which types of difficulties encourage entrepreneurs to use networks to facilitate learning, whether entrepreneurs change networks to deal with such difficulties, and which network characteristics facilitate learning.

Design/methodology/approach
Networks are considered a potential source of learning, namely, the cognitive process of acquiring and structuring knowledge, creating meaning from experience and generating new solutions from existing knowledge. Through networks, entrepreneur share information and discuss opportunities and problems. Using an innovative approach combining storytelling and network mapping, this study analyses how entrepreneurs use networks in learning. The data collected from six entrepreneurs working in knowledge-intensive sectors enables examining the learning process ensuing from the interactions between entrepreneurs and their contacts.

Findings
The findings show that entrepreneurs construct different types of networks in response to their difficulties, not in relation to products or technologies, but to learn to overcome self-crises, external threats, management and organisational issues. The findings reveal that entrepreneurs develop networks dominated by strong ties for exploitative learning and networks dominated by weak ties for explorative learning.

Research limitations/implications
Originality/value
This study contributes to literature on networks and entrepreneurial learning. More specifically, the study provides evidence of learning in the context of networks, which is a relatively overlooked area in entrepreneurship literature, identifying the role of difficulties in determining the type of learning through networks and the related mechanisms.

Bibliographic note

This article is (c) Emerald Group Publishing and permission has been granted for this version to appear here. Emerald does not grant permission for this article to be further copied/distributed or hosted elsewhere without the express permission from Emerald Group Publishing Limited.