Action learning: How learning transfers from entrepreneurs to small firms

Andrew Gordon Henley, Karen Jones, Luke Pittaway, Sally Sambrook, Heather Norbury

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (SciVal)


This paper presents research with small- and medium-sized enterprise (SME) owners who have participated in a leadership development programme. The primary focus of this paper is on learning transfer and factors affecting it, arguing that entrepreneurs must engage in ‘action’ in order to ‘learn’ and that under certain conditions they may transfer learning to their firm. This paper draws on data from 19 focus groups undertaken from 2010 to 2012, involving 51 participants in the LEAD Wales programme. It considers the literatures exploring learning transfer and develops a conceptual framework, outlining four areas of focus for entrepreneurial learning. Utilising thematic analysis, it describes and evaluates what (actual facts and information) and how (techniques, styles of learning) participants transfer and what actions they take to improve the business and develop their people. This paper illustrates the complex mechanisms involved in this process and concludes that action learning is a method of facilitating entrepreneurial learning which is able to help address some of the problems of engagement, relevance and value that have been highlighted previously. This paper concludes that the efficacy of an entrepreneurial learning intervention in SMEs may depend on the effectiveness of learning transfer.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)131-166
JournalAction Learning: Research and Practice
Issue number2
Early online date15 Apr 2014
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • action learning
  • SMEs
  • entrepreneurial learning
  • learning transfer


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