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Creating a learning organisation within the family business: an Irish perspective

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Purpose ‐ The purpose of this paper is to investigate how a learning organisation can be created within the framework of the family SME in Ireland. Design/methodology/approach ‐ No comprehensive list of independent family businesses in Ireland was available. To overcome this problem a pragmatic approach was taken in the construction of a sampling frame for this research. Primary data from a stratified random sample of independent unquoted businesses were collected. Data were collected from 121 family SMEs using a postal questionnaire. Findings ‐ The results indicate that micro, small and medium-sized family firms display some of the characteristics of a learning organisation, but not all of them. Therefore, with strategic review, systems development and cultural change within family SMEs in Ireland, they have the potential to be learning organisations. Research limitations/implications ‐ This study used a single-respondent, self-administered questionnaire. Future research should incorporate analysing other members of the family business ‐ family and non-family members ‐ so as to get a "wider" understanding of the family SME. Practical implications ‐ A major contribution of this research is the identification of an existing and suitable theoretical background that can be applied to the study of the family SME, thereby providing a frame-of-reference for the analysis of family SMEs as learning organisations. Originality/value ‐ This paper presents original findings in a highly relevant, but under-researched field ‐ the family SME as a learning organisation.
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Keywords: Family firms; Ireland; Learning organizations; Small to medium-sized enterprises

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: December 1, 2005

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