Research Handbooks in Business and Management series
Edited by Helle Neergaard and Claire Leitch
Chapter 1: Using the constant comparative technique to consider network change and evolution
Developing greater understanding about if, how and why networks emerge, evolve and support growth has been recognized in the literature as an area for further research (Larson and Starr 1993; Uzzi 1997; Hite and Hesterly 2001). In this chapter we present data and demonstrate how the constant comparative approach can be used to develop theory and understanding about the entrepreneur and the practices in which he/she engages. This Chapter presents an unusual case, the emergence and development of a new network, where the unit of analysis is not the individual or the cluster, but the emergent network itself (Hite and Hesterley 2001; Hite 2003; 2005). In doing so, it demonstrates the usefulness and applicability of the constant comparative technique, how it operates and is used in practice, and its value to the field of entrepreneurship. The case itself draws on longitudinal observation, examination and analysis of network configuration, reconfiguration and change in an entrepreneurial network over a six-year period. Examining rich data about transformation enabled the purpose, content and objectives of entrepreneurial networking to be analysed using the constant comparison technique. From this analysis we propose that networking is fundamentally based on a social enactment of what it means to be enterprising (De Koning 1999; Hill et al. 1999; Singh et al. 1999). Hence, using the constant comparative technique shows that networks are not just about resource acquisition; but are more about softer, socialized issues such as social learning and confidence-building through interdependence and the sharing of experience.