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Networks and entrepreneurial learning: coping with difficulties

Danny Soetanto (Department of Entrepreneurship, Strategy and Innovation, Lancaster University Management School, Lancaster, UK)

International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behavior & Research

ISSN: 1355-2554

Article publication date: 2 May 2017




Many scholars analyse networks and learning to understand how individuals successfully create and manage new ventures. Based on the assumption that entrepreneurs learn from networks, the purpose of this paper is to examine which types of difficulties encourage entrepreneurs to use networks to facilitate learning, whether entrepreneurs change networks to deal with such difficulties, and which network characteristics facilitate learning.


Networks are considered a potential source of learning, namely, the cognitive process of acquiring and structuring knowledge, creating meaning from experience and generating new solutions from existing knowledge. Through networks, entrepreneur share information and discuss opportunities and problems. Using an innovative approach combining story telling and network mapping, this study analyses how entrepreneurs use networks in learning. The data collected from six entrepreneurs working in knowledge-intensive sectors enables examining the learning process ensuing from the interactions between entrepreneurs and their contacts.


The findings show that entrepreneurs construct different types of networks in response to their difficulties, not in relation to products or technologies, but to learn to overcome self-crises, external threats, management and organisational issues. The findings reveal that entrepreneurs develop networks dominated by strong ties for exploitative learning and networks dominated by weak ties for explorative learning.


This study contributes to literature on networks and entrepreneurial learning. More specifically, the study provides evidence of learning in the context of networks, which is a relatively overlooked area in entrepreneurship literature, identifying the role of difficulties in determining the type of learning through networks and the related mechanisms.



This paper forms part of a special section Entrepreneurial learning dynamics in knowledge intensive enterprises.


Soetanto, D. (2017), "Networks and entrepreneurial learning: coping with difficulties", International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behavior & Research, Vol. 23 No. 3, pp. 547-565.



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