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Learning by doing – An exploration of experience, critical incidents and reflection in entrepreneurial learning

Jason Cope (Lancaster University Management School, UK)
Gerald Watts (Gloucestershire Business School, Cheltenham and Gloucester College of Higher Education, UK)

International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behavior & Research

ISSN: 1355-2554

Article publication date: 1 June 2000



This research explores the learning process of entrepreneurs in relation to the parallel processes of personal and business development. Building on theories of individual learning and of the business life‐cycle, this paper discusses the impact of critical incidents from an individual perspective and, in particular, their role within entrepreneurial learning. A phenomenological case study approach was employed, with the sample consisting of six small business owners. The interviews concentrated on the developmental history of the business, focusing on critical incidents as they arose in the general conversation. The findings emphasise the complexity of the concept of “critical incident” and demonstrate that entrepreneurs often face prolonged and traumatic critical periodsor episodes, illustrating the emotionally‐laden nature of these events. Furthermore, the critical incidents described here resulted in fundamental, higher‐level learning, and highlight the need for mentoring support programmes designed to help entrepreneurs to interpret critical incidents as learning experiences, in order to increase the power of the learning outcomes. The authors conclude by stressing the need for further theory development that conceptualises the complex and dynamic interactivity between the individual and the business.



Cope, J. and Watts, G. (2000), "Learning by doing – An exploration of experience, critical incidents and reflection in entrepreneurial learning", International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behavior & Research, Vol. 6 No. 3, pp. 104-124.




Copyright © 2000, MCB UP Limited

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