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“It's in the way they talk”: A discourse analysis of managing in two small businesses

Clare Rigg (School of Public Policy, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK)

International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behavior & Research

ISSN: 1355-2554

Article publication date: 1 February 2005




To illustrate methodologically and conceptually how understanding of entrepreneurial management can be enhanced through a discourse perspective which focuses on discourse as both noun and verb, encompassing discursive resources and discursive practices.


An ethnographic study of SME managers and their companies, which deployed a discourse perspective to managing, organising and learning. Through two case study companies the paper explores how managers' formal management learning influenced their organisation practice.


Demonstrates how significant communicative acts are to understanding a company. Illustrates how apparent organisation dysfunction might be analysed and sense made of it.

Research limitations/implications

By differentiating between discursive practice and discursive resource it shows that entrepreneurship research can be enriched through ethnographic study of both the content of communication between organisation members and their communicative practices.

Practical implications

Illustrates a method of gaining insight into dysfunctional organisational processes. Provides new ways of understanding and researching the interconnections between learning, knowledge and management in small enterprises.


In the small firm sector there are still few empirical discursive analyses of organization and managing. Discursive organization studies have also tended to be undervalued as “an obsession with talk” and “an intellectual luxury”. This article addresses both these gaps, both offering evidence of the practical utility of the methodological approach for advancing organisation understanding and providing a rare empirical discursive study of managing in SMEs.



Rigg, C. (2005), "“It's in the way they talk”: A discourse analysis of managing in two small businesses", International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behavior & Research, Vol. 11 No. 1, pp. 58-75.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2005, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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