Entrepreneurial Learning in a Multi-generational Family Business: Evidence from Nigeria Abstract Although a long-standing phenomenon, family business as an economic and social phenomenon has started to receive greater attention and focus from the academic research body, mainly due to the widespread of this type of businesses worldwide and their impact on economy. The subject of entrepreneurship has long been studied and the family business is considered to be the dominant form of organization in the world (Hoy and Sharma, 2012), there have still been calls for more research and studies that connects entrepreneurship and family systems (family and business) (Aldrich and Cli, 2003). Entrepreneurial learning is understood as how people acquire knowledge and enact new behaviours in the process of recognizing and acting on opportunities and of organizing and managing ventures (Rea & Carswell, 2000). Learning is an integral part of the entrepreneurial process in which human and social aspects hold as much importance as economic factors. Although entrepreneurship is an on-going process, the entrepreneur is considered central to the process as his/her entrepreneurial activities enable the existing/new organization to come into existence or correspond to the venture requirements. In family business, family members have to assume the role of innovator, manager, business owner, staff and so on, at various stages of the business and each role requires unique set of skills whose possession and application translate into a unique learning exercise. Accordingly, early participation in the day-to-day practice of the business develops a strong identification of family members with the business, a sense of ownership and a responsibility for the business preparing them not only to be fit to run a certain type of business but also to be able to identify and capitalize on opportunities (entrepreneurial learning). The paper draws on an empirical study of three generations in two family businesses through in-depth interviews, observations and organizational records. Six individual interviews were undertaken with non-family members and members of the family who had taken over or were working in the business. Data analysis was carried out via a qualitative data analysis software - NVivo - comparing both within-case and across-case analyses. The paper suggests that in family businesses, there is asymmetry between the participation of the three generations; and that entrepreneurial learning varies relatively in the first, second and third generations. Similarly, the founding generation participated through collaboration, expertise and communication while subsequent generations participated through apprenticeship, communication and new resources (especially human and social capital resources). Multi-generational entrepreneurial learning in family systems depended on the ability to replicate and transform practice, and this plays an important role in the generative capacity of a family business. We anticipate that our findings will add credence to theory (better understanding of entrepreneurial learning in a developing country), practice (useful information for family business owners) and education (development and enhancement of the curriculum on family business).


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