Inderscience Publishers

Sources of external organisational learning in small manufacturing firms

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This paper focuses on identifying external learning sources of Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs) and the relationship between external learning sources and dynamic capabilities. Our results indicate that the most common sources of external learning for SMEs, in order, are customers, suppliers, the scientific community and other industries. The least common sources are competitors, partnerships and consultants. Our results indicate that learning from customers is a predictor of innovation speed, learning from suppliers is a predictor of operational efficiency, and learning from other industries is a predictor of superior process technologies. However, learning from competitors is negatively associated with the development of product technologies and basic research. Additionally, smaller firms in our sample learn more from suppliers and the scientific community than larger firms, while larger firms learn more from partnerships and consultants.

Keywords: external learning, dynamic capabilities, small manufacturing firms, SMEs, organisational learning

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