Learning among entrepreneurs in formal networks : Outcomes, processes and beyond

Sammanfattning: This dissertation focuses on how entrepreneurs learn to acquire entrepreneurial knowledge and competence, which ultimately can open doors to business success. Contemporary critics suggest that programs designed to develop general competence are not sufficiently relevant to these entrepreneurs. On the other hand, scholars and practitioners have recently noticed that external relations in formal learning networks can be a notable opportunity for learning in entrepreneurs. The aim of this dissertation is to elaborate on the processes and outcomes of government supported learning networks among entrepreneurs who work in small and medium sized enterprises. It draws on reports of four separate but interrelated research studies that author conducted. The research described in the dissertation is based on multiple theoretical perspectives, methodologies, and data sources. To gain a full understanding of the experiences of the different network participants, as well as the interactive processes within the learning network, data were collected from multiple sources: interviews, participant observation, and videotaping. The conclusions stated in appended paper 1 and 2 are primarily based on the interviews, but they are also supported by the observations and written material. Paper three focuses on the videos in combination with the interviews. Finally, to complement the qualitative research with insights regarding the relationships among trust, learning, and self-efficacy, the last paper reports the results of a quantitative survey study. The dissertation makes several major contributions to knowledge. First and foremost, by combining entrepreneurship theory and learning theory, it describes the outcomes that can emerge from formal learning networks and shows how these outcomes can have entrepreneurial consequences. Second, it suggests how the learning situation can be characterized and describes an appropriate learning environment for entrepreneurs from small and medium sized enterprises. The research also contributes to theory on how trust in formal learning networks is built and how this trust contributes to entrepreneurial learning. At the same time, it shows that the potential benefits derived from trust cannot be realized without incorporating the entrepreneur’s level of self-efficacy in the analysis. The dissertation concludes by offering suggestions for exploiting learning and business opportunities through the construction and utilization of learning networks.