Chapter 3: Conceptual and Empirical Challenges in the Study of Firm Growth
3. Conceptual and empirical challenges in the study of firm growth1 Per Davidsson, Johan Wiklund INTRODUCTION When the first author reviewed the literature on small firm growth in the mid1980s for his dissertation work, he noted that surprisingly few studies had focused on that specific problem (Davidsson 1989a; 1989b). Today, this is no longer true. In recent years ever more comprehensive lists of studies have been compiled and reviewed. Storey (1994) compiled results from more than 25 studies. Delmar (1997) scrutinized the operationalizations of growth in 55 studies. The second author of the present chapter recently reviewed and classified close to 70 studies for his dissertation work (Wiklund, 1998), while Ardishvili, Cardozo, Harmon and Vadakath (1998) included in their classification a full 105 published and unpublished studies focusing on new and/or small firm growth. However, rather than presenting a set of solid generalizations on the causes and effects of growth, these reviewers all tend to come up with relatively critical accounts. These criticisms concern both theoretical and methodological shortcomings. (Storey, 1994, pp. 5, 125; Cooper, 1995, p. 120; Delmar (1997, pp. 205, 212; Wiklund, 1998, pp. 6-7, 19; Ardishvili et al., 1998, p. 1). In addition to the above evaluations of research specifically on growth, we also have the observation that longitudinal designs are generally lacking in entrepreneurship research (Cooper 1995, p. 112; Wiklund 1998, p. 7). In the latest ‘state-of-the-art’ volume, several authors mentioned the lack of longitudinal studies in entrepreneurship research as a major impediment (Aldrich and Baker,...
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