SME innovation and learning: the role of networks and crisis events
Mark N.K. Saunders, David E Gray, Harshita Goregaokar, Prof. Maura Sheehan
European Journal of Training and Development
record, include research methods, management learning (particularly coaching and mentoring), action learning, reflective learning, and learning in SMEs. He has written books and published articles on research methods, work-based learning, and coaching and mentoring. David has led a number of coaching research programmes both for managers of SMEs, for unemployed managers who seek new employment opportunities and for unemployed managers who aim to start their own business. Harshita Goregaokar
... f personal biography: Harshita Goregaokar BA (Psychology), MA (Clinical Psychology), MSc (Work and Organisational Psychology) is currently pursuing part-time PhD from the University of Surrey. She has previously held research posts at the University of Surrey and the University of Kent. Her research interests and publication record, include executive coaching and mentoring, reflective learning, sensemaking and unemployment. Harshita has worked on several UK and European government research programmes involving coaching for SME managers, for unemployed managers who seek new employment opportunities and for unemployed managers who aim to start their own business. Acknowledgement: We would like to thank Kingston Smith LLP for financing this research project, the many businesses and individuals who took part, and the many organisations such as Chambers of Commerce that promoted the research survey amongst their membership. 3 SME innovation and learning: the role of networks and crisis events Short title: SME innovation and learning Abstract Purpose: To contribute to the literature on innovation and entrepreneurial learning by exploring how SMEs learn and innovate, how they use of both formal and informal learning and in particular the role of networks and crisis events within their learning experience. Design/methodology/approach: Mixed method study, comprising 13 focus groups, over 1000 questionnaire responses from SME mangers, 13 focus groups and 20 case studies derived from semi-structured interviews. Findings: SMEs have a strong commitment to learning, and a shared vision. Much of this learning is informal through network events, mentoring or coaching. SMEs that are innovative are significantly more committed to learning than those which are less innovative, seeing employee learning as an investment. Innovative SMEs are more likely to have a shared vision, be open-minded and to learn from crises, being able to reflect on their experiences. Implications for research: There is a need for further process driven qualitative research to understand the interrelationship between, particularly informal, learning, crisis events and SME innovation. Implications for practice: SME owners need opportunities and time for reflection as a means of stimulating personal learningparticularly the opportunity to learn from crisis events. Access to mentors (often outside the business) can be important here, as are informal networks. Originality/value: This is one of the first mixed method large scale studies to explore the relationship between SME innovation and learning, highlighting the importance of informal learning to innovation and the need for SME leaders to foster this learning as part of a shared organisational vision.