Higgins, David and Mirza, Mohammed (2011) Learning as a social enactment of the Small Firm Owner/Manager. In: ISBE Conference 2011 Sustainable Futures: Enterprising Landscapes and Communities, 9-10 November 2011, Sheffield, UK. (Unpublished)

Objectives: One of the key influencing elements in the small firm on the learning process is that of the owner/manager as a principle employee, having both the power and legitimacy to influence firm practices. The paper’s perspective is connected to the belief that learning stems from the participation of individuals in complex social activities, by recognising that power relations can directly mediate the interpretative processes within social interactions.

Prior Work: Such interactions represent the manner owner/managers adopt to colour and shape their learning experience, yet it is here that research is lacking, in that the issues of emotions, power and the relatedness of politics have rarely emerged as a focus for critical debate.

Approach: The paper argues that both power and politically-based social tensions provide the mediating social artefacts which have the ability to shape and influence learning practices. The inclusion of power and politics can help to explain why some SME owner/mangers are more successful at learning.

Practical Implications: The paper seeks to draw attention to the social conflicts which are experienced by owner/managers, in which they must overcome the inherent elements of situated learning, such as the localisation of practice, and how this mediates and shapes learning.

Originality/Value: The paper aims to explore and contribute to the development of the organisational learning debate in the context of the SME by providing an analysis of the influential and meditational role played by power and politics in the firm’s learning.

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