Academic journal article Journal of Business and Entrepreneurship

A Situated Perspective of Entrepreneurial Learning: Implications for Entrepreneurial Innovation Propensity

Academic journal article Journal of Business and Entrepreneurship

A Situated Perspective of Entrepreneurial Learning: Implications for Entrepreneurial Innovation Propensity

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

Consistent with calls for a context-process-outcome research structure, this study takes a situated learning perspective to integrate environmental uncertainty, entrepreneurial learning, and entrepreneurs' innovation propensity into a coherent theoretical framework. The paper first advances a research model of a situated perspective of entrepreneurial learning. Specifically, information uncertainty is proposed to negatively relate to the degree of exploratory entrepreneurial learning, and resource uncertainty is proposed to positively relate to the degree of exploratory entrepreneurial learning. In addition, entrepreneurial learning is proposed to mediate the relationship between environmental uncertainty and entrepreneurs' innovation propensity. The paper then tests the framework using the Entrepreneurial Research Consortium's Panel Study of Entrepreneurial Dynamics. In general, our analysis of a national survey of nascent entrepreneurs provides broad support for our hypotheses.

INTRODUCTION

Learning is increasingly being recognized as an integral element of both the practice and the study of entrepreneurship (Cope, 2005). Proponents of the application of learning to entrepreneurship argue that "entrepreneurship is a process of learning, and a theory of entrepreneurship requires a theory of learning" (Minniti & Bygrave, 2001, p. 7) and that learning is especially important in the acquisition of knowledge and skills that facilitate organization creation. Recognizing the importance of learning in new venture creation, a growing body of work within the entrepreneurship literature explores how entrepreneurs learn during the creation and management of entrepreneurial ventures (Cope, 2005). While this research has significantly contributed to our understanding of entrepreneurial literature, researchers have noted that the conceptual frameworks used to study this phenomenon are currently underdeveloped, and there have been relatively few empirical tests that offer insight into how entrepreneurs learn (Cope & Watts, 2000).

Rae (2000) argues that, while the entrepreneur continues to be a worthy subject for research, additional insight can be gained by viewing entrepreneurship as a contextual process, wherein the entrepreneur is continually learning and developing in relation to his or her business and the wider environment. Similarly, Cope (2005) proposes that further inquiry is needed to appreciate the contextual dimensions of entrepreneurial learning.

To better understand the relationship between entrepreneurial learning and the context in which learning takes place, this study examines how an organization's learning context, characterized by either information uncertainty or resource uncertainty, gives rise to either exploratory or exploitative entrepreneurial learning, as well as how this context-specific learning may impact the innovative nature of entrepreneurial activities. Particularly, this study employs a situated learning perspective to integrate environmental uncertainty and learning theory to develop and test a coherent theoretical framework that addresses the context, process, and outcomes of entrepreneurial learning. Our study suggests that environmental uncertainty has an important bearing on shaping and embedding exploratory entrepreneurial learning and that the scope of entrepreneurial learning will then impact entrepreneurs' innovation propensity. The research model is presented in Figure 1. We test our framework using the Entrepreneurial Research Consortium's Panel Study of Entrepreneurial Dynamics (Reynolds, 2000). We end by discussing the limitations and implications of the study.

LITERATURE REVIEW AND FRAMEWORK DEVELOPMENT

A Situated Perspective of Entrepreneurial Learning as Exploitation versus Exploration

Entrepreneurial learning is a continuous process that facilitates the development of the knowledge necessary for effectively starting up and managing new ventures (Politis, 2005). …

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