Internationalisation of SMEs from the perspective of social learning theory
Internationalisation is seen as an important issue for the globalised economy. Therefore, it has been widely investigated among multinational enterprises and small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Even though earlier work acknowledges that internationalisation consists of entrepreneurial actions (e.g. discovery and exploitation of an international business opportunity) and learning from the market, detailed understanding of the process of social learning in internationalisation is still lacking. In this study, we use the cycle of expansive learning as a conceptual framework. It shows that entrepreneurial actions between SMEs construct international business opportunities. More specifically, entrepreneurial actions are about learning that constructs and co-creates knowledge. The cycle of expansive learning assumes that such knowledge is social in nature making the very nature of knowledge the basis of claims to explicate what the process of social learning entails. In the context of international entrepreneurship, there is also a by-product of that type of co-created and object-oriented action: the internationalisation of SMEs. The purpose of this study is to explore the internationalisation of SMEs through the cycle of expansive learning to better understand how such a by-product can be created. In examining a story of collaboration between two entrepreneurs, we found the start of the cycle to be more significant than the later stages. From the perspective of social learning, this suggests that entrepreneurs create meanings rather than exploit international opportunities in the business-sense alone. That said, internationalisation happens as a by-product of social acting. Copyright Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012
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