A learning framework for the small business environment

Felicity Kelliher, Joan Bernadette Henderson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose - The aim of this article is to offer insight into the factors affecting individual and organisational learning in a small business; specifically the identification of the learning relationships that are unique to the small business environment. Design/methodology/approach - The authors apply Crossan et al.'s (1997, 1999) Organisational Learning Framework. The proposed framework is supported by empirical evidence generated through a longitudinal case study carried out in a small business in the Republic of Ireland over a two-year period. A learning catalyst, in this case the implementation of a new information system (IS), offered an initial point from which to gauge subsequent learning within the studied case. Findings - This framework acknowledges the learning impact of a small workforce, an owner-centred culture and a simple organisational structure, as well as the time and resource constraints specific to small businesses which affect the learning dynamic. The framework also takes account of the learning challenges brought about by external influences unique to a small business environment, such as enforced organisational change created by powerful business partners' commercial requirements. Research limitations/implications - As this framework was developed based on a single case, similar research may be conducted on additional case studies to determine the learning dynamic in alternative settings and business environments. Originality/value - This research presents some valuable insights into the ways in which organisational learning can be facilitated and impeded in the largely ignored small business environment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)512-528
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of European Industrial Training
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2006


  • Learning
  • Organizational behaviour
  • Small enterprises


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