Elgar original reference
Edited by Elizabeth Chell and Mine Karataş-Özkan
Research perspectives on learning in small firms have evolved through a number of stages in the last 30 years (Breslin, 2008). This chapter examines work conducted through four stages of development by building on a number of themes related to theories of learning. Our intention is to examine critically various perspectives on learning in small firms as the field has evolved from early interest that followed publication of the Bolton Report (1971). We will demonstrate that researchers' understanding of learning in small firms has fundamentally changed over the last 30 years. The influence of the Bolton Committee meant that the focus was essentially management training and development rather than learning. Although, Burgoyne and Stuart (1977) claim that all management development programmes are underpinned by implicit learning theories. Gradually, a number of pioneering individuals stimulated interest in the topic of learning whether related to small firms (Gibb, 1997), to individual entrepreneurs (Deakins and Freel, 1998) or approaches to enterprise education (Caird, 1990). Blackburn and Kovalainen (2009), in their review of the small firm literature, identify 'learning' as one of nine novel areas for future research in entrepreneurship studies. We suggest that in recent years learning has become one of the most important topics amongst the small firm research community.
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