Entrepreneurial Learning: Past Research and Future Challenges

Topics: Learning, Educational psychology, Entrepreneurship Pages: 154 (21981 words) Published: April 13, 2013

International Journal of Management Reviews, Vol. *, *–* (2013) DOI: 10.1111/ijmr.12007

Entrepreneurial Learning: Past Research
and Future Challenges
Catherine L. Wang and Harveen Chugh
School of Management, Royal Holloway, University of London, Egham Hill, Egham TW20 0EX, UK

Corresponding author email: catherine.wang@rhul.ac.uk
Entrepreneurial learning (EL) has emerged as an important concept at the interface of entrepreneurship and organizational learning. Although EL research has gained momentum in the past decade, the literature is diverse, highly individualistic and fragmented, hindering the development of EL as a promising research area. In this paper, a systematic analysis of the EL literature is first conducted in order to take stock of the theoretical and empirical development and identify research themes and developmental patterns of EL research. Second, three pairs of key learning types that deserve more attention in future research are discussed, namely individual and collective learning, exploratory and exploitative learning, and intuitive and sensing learning. These learning types correspond to three key challenges that are derived from the EL research gaps identified in the systematic literature analysis, and provide fruitful avenues for future research. Third, by exploring the three pairs of learning types, further insights are drawn from entrepreneurship and organizational learning to help to advance EL research, and also feed back to the entrepreneurship literature by discussing how these learning types can help to understand the challenges at the centre of debate in the entrepreneurship literature.

Entrepreneurial learning (EL) has emerged as a
promising area of research at the interface between
learning and the entrepreneurial context (Harrison
and Leitch 2005). Central to EL research are issues
pertinent not only to what entrepreneurs should or do
learn during the process of exploring and exploiting
This article is dedicated to Dr Jason Cope, a much valued
We thank Jason Cope, Mark Easterby-Smith, Yiannis
Gabriel, Ossie Jones, David J. Ketchen, Alice Lam, David
Rae and Paul Robson for their comments on this paper. A
previous version of the paper was presented at the Babson
College Entrepreneurship Research Conference 2010 and
the British Academy of Management Entrepreneurial Learning and Education Research Seminar 2011, and we thank the participants for their comments. Finally, we thank the editor, Ossie Jones, and three reviewers for their detailed and constructive comments.

an entrepreneurial opportunity in the creation of
new ventures or management of existing firms, but
more importantly, the specific processes of learning
that take place (Cope 2005). Simply put, how learning takes place and when learning takes place are fundamental to the understanding of the entrepreneurial process. As Minniti and Bygrave (2001, p. 7) assert, ‘entrepreneurship is a process of learning, and a theory of entrepreneurship requires a theory of learning’.

Entrepreneurial learning research has flourished in
the past decade, and demonstrates several characteristics. First, while EL is broadly positioned at the interface of entrepreneurship and organizational
learning, existing studies have drawn from a wide
range of theoretical insights, including experiential
learning (e.g. Clarysse and Moray 2004; Cope 2003;
Minniti and Bygrave 2001), organizational learning
(e.g. Covin et al. 2006; Lant and Mezias 1990; Wang
2008), social cognitive theory (i.e. Erikson 2003),

© 2013 The Authors
International Journal of Management Reviews © 2013 British Academy of Management and Blackwell Publishing Ltd. Published by Blackwell Publishing Ltd, 9600 Garsington Road, Oxford OX4 2DQ, UK and 350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148, USA


C.L. Wang and H. Chugh

population ecology (i.e. Dencker et al. 2009) and
configuration theory (i.e. Hughes et al. 2007),...

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