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Innovation culture in small Tunisian ICT firms

Sana El Harbi (Université de Sousse, Sousse, Tunisia)
Alistair R. Anderson (Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen, UK)
Meriam Amamou (Université de Sousse, Sousse, Tunisia)

Journal of Small Business and Enterprise Development

ISSN: 1462-6004

Article publication date: 11 February 2014




The research aims to ask whether, in the absence of overarching innovative conditions, a small firm can have an innovative culture and what its scale and scope is.


The study employs four exploratory case studies. This methodological choice is justified in that a case study approach allows the use of the existing literature without inhibiting the detection of any unique characteristics in the Tunisian context. This context of a developing economy is likely to be different from established economies.


The study finds evidence of a learning environment within the firms and a good fit with the concepts of an innovative culture. Internal knowledge sharing is evident for all companies. However, this culture faces inwards, so that the paucity of linkages and weak socialisation combines with institutional thinness to isolate the firms. Local competitive advantages are not amplified but rather are dampened by the relative absence of interaction.

Research limitations/implications

Most research about innovation in the ICT sector is conducted in the context of developed countries. This paper shows the specificities and uniqueness of innovation culture in the context of a developing country.

Practical implications

The findings imply that despite recent improvements, Tunisia lacks many of the regional “institutions” that produce the synergic benefits of an innovative milieu.


The context of a developing country is novel. The value of the findings may, however, be extended to other similar countries. This is important given the role of ICT in “catching up”.



The authors are very grateful to the Editor, Professor Harry Matlay, and the anonymous referees for their helpful critiques of early versions of this paper.


El Harbi, S., R. Anderson, A. and Amamou, M. (2014), "Innovation culture in small Tunisian ICT firms", Journal of Small Business and Enterprise Development, Vol. 21 No. 1, pp. 132-151.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2014, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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