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SME innovation and learning: the role of networks and crisis events

Saunders, Mark, Gray, DE and Goregaokar, H (2014) SME innovation and learning: the role of networks and crisis events European Journal of Training and Development, 38 (1/2). pp. 136-149.

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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.


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 learning – particularly the opportunity to learn from crisis events. Access to mentors (often outside the business) can be important here, as are informal networks.


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.

Item Type: Article
Divisions : Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences > Surrey Business School
Authors :
Gray, DE
Goregaokar, H
Date : 20 January 2014
DOI : 10.1108/EJTD-07-2013-0073
Copyright Disclaimer : © Emerald Group Publishing Limited 2014. Published by Emerald Group Publishing Limited. 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.
Uncontrolled Keywords : SME, entrepreneur, learning, innovation, network, mixed method
Depositing User : Symplectic Elements
Date Deposited : 18 Feb 2014 15:24
Last Modified : 16 Jan 2019 16:50

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