Developing knowledge from entrepreneurial actions – toward a taxonomy


Journal of Small Business and Enterprise Development

2017, vol. 24, n°4, pp.793-813

Departments: GREGHEC (CNRS), Information Systems and Operations Management

Keywords: Experiential learning, Qualitative method, Knowledge development, Entrepreneurial learning

Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to enrich our understanding of entrepreneurs’ daily deeds, tasks and activities. The research investigates the ways in which entrepreneurs seize opportunities and gain knowledge from the start to the expansion of their ventures.Design/methodology/approach – Two case studies were developed based on a longitudinal fine-grained analysis of two ventures over two years. Entrepreneurs’ success and learning were modeled in line with grounded theory methodology. Data were collected from both primary and secondary sources in the form of semi-structured interviews and archival documentation.Findings – The authors develop an original conceptual framework that consists of ten entrepreneurial learning opportunities and four knowledge development modes. There are ten generic types of actions that entrepreneurs take. There are then four distinctive ways to transform these experiences into knowledge. The model is assessed in absolute terms and relatively to existing taxonomies.Research limitations/implications – The findings question the premises on which entrepreneurial learning research traditionally relies. Opportunities can be open-ended rather than purely instrumental. Similarly, knowledge can be emerging as much as it can be espoused. This opens-up space for further research.Practical implications – For practitioners, the findings suggest new ways for making sense of the daily experience of their entrepreneurial endeavor. The learning modes suggested can be used by coaches and mentors when helping entrepreneurs in their venture.Originality/value – The research provides empirical evidence of what entrepreneurs do. This may help cast traditional debates about what there is to do (logical necessity) and what there is to know (a priori knowledge) in a new light.