A process model of small business owner‐managers' learning in peer networks

Jing Zhang (College of Business, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa, USA)
Eleanor Hamilton (Lancaster University Management School, Lancaster University, Lancaster, UK)

Education + Training

ISSN: 0040-0912

Publication date: 20 November 2009



The purpose of this study is to explore how owner‐managers of small businesses can learn in peer networks to improve their management skills. It aims to offer a new way of understanding owner‐managers' learning as part of a social process, by highlighting the complex, interactive relationship that exists between the owner‐manager, his or her peers, and the wider environment.


A peer learning environment was created for 67 owner‐managers by providing a one‐year management training programme, and interviewing participants in the entry‐, mid‐ and post‐stages of the programme. Drawing upon the cases of six sample participants, a theoretical framework for understanding how owner‐managers learn in peer networks is proposed.


First, this paper compares the value of peer networks and other types of networks such as families and customers/suppliers, and second, highlights the role of peer networks in facilitating critical reflection in the learning process. Theoretically, it provides a conceptual platform for further research in the learning of owner‐managers as a social process. It concludes that higher education institutions (HEIs) can create an environment to support peer networks and to provoke reflective thinking, in so doing they can improve owner‐managers’ management skills.


This study will assist HEIs in shaping how, and what, is provided in terms of management education for small business.



Jing Zhang and Eleanor Hamilton (2009) "A process model of small business owner‐managers' learning in peer networks", Education + Training, Vol. 51 No. 8/9, pp. 607-623

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: https://doi.org/10.1108/00400910911005181



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