Cope, J P (2003) Exploring the nature and impact of critical experiences within small business growth and entrepreneurial development. Working Paper. Institute for Entrepreneurship and Enterprise Development, Lancaster University.
This paper builds a deeper understanding of critical experiences during the growth of a small business. Based on qualitative, case study research, it suggests that greater clarity is needed in defining what makes an event 'critical'. The concept of 'critical episodes' is introduced, as the term 'critical incident' can sometimes trivialise how fundamental and prolonged certain critical experiences can be for both the owner-manager and the business. The paper goes on to examine the relationship between critical incidents and wider critical episodes, introducing several key developmental roles that critical incidents can play within broader periods of organisational transition and change. The research demonstrates that critical experiences can act as 'triggers' for both organisational growth and entrepreneurial development. The significant emotional dimension of critical experiences is then discussed, demonstrating that the concept of crises, as described by life cycle theorists, does not adequately capture this important aspect of criticality. The paper concludes by developing conceptual links between crises and critical experiences during the growth process.
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