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Entrepreneurial Learning Dynamics in Knowledge Intensive Enterprises

Special issue call for papers from International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behavior & Research

Scope and Relevance

The scope of this special issue is to shed new light on the entrepreneurial learning dynamics in knowledge intensive enterprises. The aim is to extend and consolidate this emerging research area exploring entrepreneurship as a never-ending dynamic learning process as well as to cross-fertilize entrepreneurship and organizational learning studies.

In a competitive context which is increasingly complex and turbulent it is fundamental to point out the shift of entrepreneurship from a static perspective, i.e. a trait-based approach, to a dynamic view, i.e. a learning-based approach (Cope, 2005, Rae, 2006; Gemmell, et al., 2011; Erdélyi, 2010; Wang and Chug, 2014). As Minniti and Bygrave (2001) state, “entrepreneurship is a process of learning, and a theory of entrepreneurship requires a theory of learning” (p. 7). Continuous learning processes allow entrepreneurs to develop and grow as well as enable organizations to engage in strategic renewal processes (Cope, 2005; Corbett, 2005; Kenworthy and McMullan, 2013; Cope and Watts, 2000). The acknowledgement of the entrepreneurial learning dynamics to shape and contribute to the development of entrepreneurs’ capabilities is driving an emerging interpretation of the entrepreneur as a permanent learner (Franco and Haase, 2009).

In the last decade the arising research focus on entrepreneurial learning has revitalized entrepreneurship research by investigating the learning and development processes of entrepreneurship. However, the entrepreneurial learning research is still highly fragmented and there is still a lack of a systematic analysis of the interpretations and frameworks grounding the theory of entrepreneurial learning dynamics.

An emerging working interpretation identifies entrepreneurial learning as learning mechanisms taking place in the entrepreneurial process (Holcomb et al. 2009; Politis 2005; Ravasi and Turati 2005), and in relation to this broad definition a number of conceptualizations have been proposed. Sometimes entrepreneurial learning has been defined as venture learning (Berglund et al. 2007), or as learning to recognize and act on opportunities to initiate, organize and manage ventures (Rae 2005; Rae, 2012), or as a variety of experiential and cognitive processes to acquire and use entrepreneurial knowledge (Young and Sexton 2003). Some scholars focus their attention on the experiential nature of entrepreneurial learning considered as fundamental for the continuous development of entrepreneurial knowledge (e.g. Leitch and Harrison, 1999; Minniti and Bygrave, 2001; Politis, 2005). A further perspective understands the entrepreneurial learning as a process based on intuition and interpretation, which is strongly affected by external motivation and contingent factors mediated by the entrepreneurs’ internal predisposition to alertness and creativeness (Franco and Haase, 2009). While other authors focus on the taxonomy of entrepreneurial learning and mainly identify three main pairs typologies of learning, namely individual and collective learning, exploratory and exploitative learning, and intuitive and sensing learning (Wang and Chug, 2014). 

The entrepreneurial learning has a broad relevance with a wide range of implications both for start-up companies and established ones. As Reuber and Fischer (1993) point out, the entrepreneurial learning process is not limited to the start-up phase; it is rather dynamic and appears to be continuous throughout the enterprise’s lifetime (Kempster and Cope, 2010). Companies have to be entrepreneurial the whole time, independent of their age and developmental stage. At corporate level, entrepreneurial learning can be framed as a never-ending process which involves all employees. In fact, company’s competitiveness is increasingly related to the organizational capacity to engage all employees to see themselves as innovative entrepreneurs involved into entrepreneurial learning processes aiming to create and purse new growth opportunities for the business (Ghosahal and Bartlett, 1999; Rae, 2012).

Particularly important is the role of entrepreneurial learning within knowledge intensive enterprise, i.e. those enterprises or ventures whose creation or expansion is strictly based and affected by the dynamic application, development and management of new knowledge. They tend to be characterized by a high level of innovativeness, and by the strategic relevance that knowledge assets and knowledge processes play in the company’s working mechanisms and in the value creation dynamics (Malerba, 2010). This is the case, particularly, of high tech firms, but includes other sectors too, such as manufacturing and services, creative industry, academic and research-based spin-off. In particular, knowledge intensive enterprises are distinguishable for the critical role that they play in local and national innovation systems as problem solvers, knowledge brokers, knowledge intensive service providers and/or specialized knowledge suppliers. For these companies it is particularly important to understand the role of entrepreneurial learning dynamics.

However despite the centrality that entrepreneurship has for the development and competitiveness of knowledge intensive enterprises, there are still very few studies investigating the dimensions, features and mechanisms of the entrepreneurial learning processes and their impact within knowledge intensive enterprises.  Entrepreneurial learning research so far has focused on applying existing theories in the entrepreneurial context. More research is needed to broaden the perspective and understanding how entrepreneurial learning can help to face key entrepreneurship’s challenges.

In particular, it is important to shed more light on how learning takes place at individual and organizational level especially in knowledge intensive enterprises as well as to clarify how entrepreneurs and managers are engaged into entrepreneurial learning processes in order to develop ideas for new products, services and processes for strategic organizational renewal.

Research Questions

The special issue calls for theoretical, conceptual and empirical contributions investigating the role of dynamic entrepreneurial learning process as happening in different entrepreneurial context of knowledge intensive enterprises. Questions of interest include, but are not limited to:

1. What are the organizational factors supporting the development of entrepreneurial learning for the renewal of a knowledge intensive enterprise?

2. What are the types of entrepreneurial learning that take place at individual and/or collective level in knowledge intensive enterprises?

3. How does learning take place in knowledge intensive enterprises through employees’ engagement in relation to entrepreneurial activities?

4. What are the organizational conditions promoting or hampering entrepreneurial learning?

5. What kind of entrepreneurial learning processes are more relevant in the different phases of entrepreneurial development (design, launch, and growth of new venture) in a knowledge intensive enterprise?

6. How could the interactions between businesses and universities support the development of entrepreneurial learning for the incubation of knowledge intensive businesses?

Keywords. Entrepreneurial Learning, knowledge intensive enterprise, entrepreneurial mindset, entrepreneurship and learning processes.


Berglund, H., Hellström, L. and Sjölander, S. (2007), “Entrepreneurial learning and the role of venture capitalists”,  Venture Capital: An International Journal of Entrepreneurial Finance, Vol. 9, pp. 165–181.

Leitch, C.M. Harrison, R.T. (1999) "A process model for entrepreneurship education and development", International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behavior & Research, Vol. 5 Iss: 3, pp.83 - 109

Cope, J., (2005) “Toward a Dynamic Learning Perspective of Entrepreneurship”, Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, Vol. 29, No 3, pp. 373-397.

Cope, J. and Watts, G. (2000) "Learning by doing – An exploration of experience, critical incidents and reflection in entrepreneurial learning", International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behavior & Research, Vol. 6 Iss: 3, pp.104 – 124.

Corbett, A. C. (2005), “Experiential Learning Within the Process of Opportunity Identification and Exploitation”, Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, Vol. 29, pp. 473–491.

Erdélyi, P., (2010), “The matter of entrepreneurial learning: a literature review”, Boston, MA, USA: Northeastern University.

Franco, M. and Haase, H. (2009), “Entrepreneurship: an organizational learning approach”, Journal of Small Business and Enterprise Development, Vol. 16 No. 4, pp. 628-641.

Gemmell, R. M., Boland, R.J., Kolb, D. (2011). “The socio‐cognitive dynamics of entrepreneurial ideation”, in Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, Vol. 33, No 3, pp. 1053-1073.

Ghoshal, S. and Bartlett, C. A. (1999) The Individualised Corporation, HarperCollins Publishers, USA.

Holcomb, T.R., Ireland, R.D., Holmes, R.M., Jr and Hitt, M.A. (2009), “ Architecture of entrepreneurial learning: exploring the link among heuristics, knowledge, and action”,  Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, Vol. 33, pp. 167–192.

Kenworthy, T. and McMullan, W. E. (2013), “Finding Practical Knowledge in Entrepreneurship”, Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, Vol. 37, pp.  983–997.

Kempster, S. and Cope, J. (2010) "Learning to lead in the entrepreneurial context", International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behavior & Research, Vol. 16 Iss: 1, pp.5 - 34

Malerba, F. (2010) Knowledge-Intensive Entrepreneurship and Innovation Systems. Evidence from Europe. Oxford and New York Routledge .

Minniti, M. & Bygrave, W. (2001), “A dynamic model of entrepreneurial learning”, Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, Vol. 25 No. 3, pp. 5–16.

Politis, D. (2005), “The Process of Entrepreneurial Learning: A Conceptual Framework”, Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, Vol. 29, pp. 399–424.

Rae, D., (2006), “Entrepreneurial learning: A conceptual framework for technology-based enterprise”, Technology Analysis and Strategic Management, Vol. 18, pp. 39–56.

Rae, D. (2012) "Action learning in new creative ventures", International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behavior & Research, Vol. 18 Iss: 5, pp.603 - 623

Ravasi, D. and Turati, C. (2005), “Exploring entrepreneurial learning: a comparative study of technology development projects”, Journal of Business Venturing, Vol. 20 No. 1, pp. 137-64.

Reuber, A.R. and Fischer, E.M. (1993), “The learning experiences of entrepreneurs”, Frontiers of Entrepreneurship Research, pp. 234-45.

Wang, C. L. and Chugh, H. (2014), “Entrepreneurial Learning: Past Research and Future Challenges”, International Journal of Management review, Vo. 16, pp. 24-61.

Young, J.E. and Sexton, D.L. (2003), “What makes entrepreneurs learn and how do they do it?”, Journal of Entrepreneurship, Vol. 12, pp. 155–182.


Paper Submission deadline: December 15, 2015
Papers reviewed: March 30, 2016
Revised papers reviewed and accepted: June 30, 2016
Final versions of accepted papers: July 30, 2016
Expected publications: November, 2016

Authors interested in submitting a paper are asked to send an abstract to the guest editors Giustina Secundo, Giovanni Schiuma and Giuseppina Passiante at the address [email protected], [email protected], [email protected] to check the paper relevance and suitability for the call. Abstracts can be submitted at any time by December 15th, 2015.


Papers should be submitted via the journal’s online submission system available through the journal homepage: or directly via: choosing ‘‘ENTREPRENEURIAL LEARNING DYNAMICS IN KNOWLEDGE INTENSIVE ENTERPRISES” as the article type from the drop down menu. All papers must follow the guidelines outlined by the journal for submission.

Guest Editors

Giustina Secundo, University of Salento, Lecce, Italy, [email protected]

Giustina Secundo is Senior Research Fellow at University of Salento (Italy) and Assistant Professor in Project Management. Her research is characterized by a cross-disciplinary focus, with a major interest towards Knowledge assets management, Innovation Management in Learning network and Knowledge intensive entrepreneurship. This last research area focuses on the entrepreneurial learning process and environment enhancing the creation of entrepreneurial mindset at individual and organisational level. These research activities have been documented in about 90 publications in international journals, conference proceedings and book’s chapters. Her research appeared in Journal of Intellectual Capital, Journal of Management Development, International Journal of Innovation and Technology Management, International Journal of Management Education. She is actively involved in research projects, at national and international level, in collaboration with world-wide leading companies, universities and research centers on the topic of Knowledge Assets Management, Intellectual Capital Management and Technology entrepreneurship.  She designed and launched several post graduated programs aimed to develop an entrepreneurial mindset in scientists and engineers in collaboration with the Technological District High Tech located in the Apulia Region (South Italy).  She's lecturer of Project management, Technology entrepreneurship and Intellectual Capital Management at the Faculty of Engineering of the University of Salento since 2001. In 2015, She is visting researcher at Innovation and Insights hub of the University of the arts in London (UK). She can be contacted at:  [email protected].

Giovanni Schiuma, University of Basilicata, Italy and University of the Arts London, UK,  [email protected]

Giovanni Schiuma is Professor of Innovation Management at University of Basilicata, and Professor of Arts Based Management and Director of the Innovation Insights Hub at University of the Arts London. He has held visiting teaching and research appointments at Cranfield School of Management, Graduate School of Management St. Petersburg University, Cambridge Service Alliance - IfM University of Cambridge, University of Kozminski, University of Bradford, Tampere University of Technology. Giovanni has a Ph.D. in business management from the University of Rome Tor Vergata (Italy) and has authored or co-authored more than 180 publications, including books, articles, research reports and white papers on a range of research topics particularly embracing Strategic Knowledge Asset and Intellectual Capital Management, Strategic Performance Measurement and Management, Innovation Systems, and Organisational Development. He serves as Chief-Editor of the journal “Knowledge Management Research and Practice” and as Co-Editor in Chief of the international journal “Measuring Business Excellence” and he has acted as guest Editor of the Journal of Knowledge Management, Journal of Intellectual Capital, International Journal of Knowledge-based Development, and Journal of Learning and Intellectual Capital. Giovanni chairs the International Forum on Knowledge Assets Dynamics.  He can be contacted at: [email protected];

Giuseppina Passiante, University of Salento, Lecce, Italy, [email protected]

Giuseppina Passiante is Full Professor of Innovation Management and Technology Entrepreneurship at the Department of Innovation Engineering, Faculty of Engineering, University of Salento, (Italy). Currently her research fields concern Technology Entrepreneurship, and more specifically the experiential learning environment encouraging enterprise and entrepreneurship capabilities, skills and competencies. She is also expert in knowledge-based organizations and local systems, ITs and clusters approach, complexity in economic systems. In these research fields she has published several books and about 100 papers. She is Associate Editor of the International Journal of Innovation and Technology  Management and coordinator of the International PhD programs on Technology Innovation and Entrepreneurship at University of Salento (Italy). Prof. Passiante is a Member of the Independent  Evaluation Committee (OIV) of the Italian National Research Council (CNR). She can be contacted at [email protected]