University Of Tasmania

File(s) under permanent embargo

Entrepreneurship; learning to evolve

conference contribution
posted on 2023-05-23, 05:43 authored by Breslin, D, Jones, C

Objectives: The aim of the paper is to present an evolutionary perspective on entrepreneurial learning whilst also accounting for fundamental ecological processes.

Prior Work: The paper builds on both evolutionary/ecological approaches to present a multi-level perspective on entrepreneurial learning. At the micro-level the paper focuses on the development of key recurring, knowledge components within the nascent and growing small business (Aldrich, 1999; Breslin, 2008; Burgelman, 1991; Jones, 2005; Penrose, 1959). A range of hierarchical levels (Baum and Singh, 1994) and different types of selection(Amburgey et aI., 1994) are accounted for in our approach, as are various mechanisms (Weber and Depew, 2003) that account for entrepreneurial learning.

Approach: The paper presents a timely review of literature in the fields of organizational evolution and general ecology. Key developments within the approach are then related to current research on entrepreneurial learning, with arguments presented in favour of adopting a multi-level evolutionary perspective that captures and explains hidden ecological process, such as niche-construction.

Results: Our evolutionary approach focuses attention on the multi-level development of key recurring knowledge components over time. While aspects of the approach share many features with the notion of entrepreneurial learning, the perspective can be used to develop a representation of the complexity of entrepreneurial learning at multiple levels (individual, group, organisation, industry, population) using the mechanisms of variation, selection and retention and other ecological mechanisms to outcome for learning processes.

Implications: An evolutionary approach offers researchers the opportunity to use the framework of variationselection-retention to develop a multi-level representation of organizational and entrepreneurial learning. In combination with reference to various ecological concepts, we explain the nature of the context of such learning. Building on research from a wide variety of traditions from language, psychology, economics, behaviour, culture and organization science, the conceptualization of entrepreneurial learning in this manner can shed new light on a well studied phenomenon and led to the cross-fertilization of ideas across domains.

Value: If entrepreneurial learning within small and growing businesses is conceptualized as a multi-level struggle for survival amongst competing knowledge components, this might have some interesting implications for the way in which entrepreneurs behave and make decisions. Future research should explore the extent to which interpreting survival and growth in these terms can impact upon the eventual evolution of small businesses.


Publication title

Proceedings of the 34th Institute for Small Business & Entrepreneurship (ISBE) Conference


N Lockett









Place of publication


Event title


Event Venue

Sheffield, UK

Date of Event (Start Date)


Date of Event (End Date)


Rights statement

Copyright 2011 ISBE

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Technological and organisational innovation