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Doctoral thesis, 2017

Rethinking small firm growth... while absorbing the processual

Tunberg, Maria

Abstract

In reaction to the misalignment between one-dimensional determinism informing much of the firm growth literature and the non-linear, recursive and idiosyncratic process of growth, the aim of this thesis is to rethink small firm growth. It is inspired by the vast interest in growing firms, and intrigued by contemporary requests to invigorate the research field with new perspectives. By problematizing the phenomena and discussing its underpinning and often taken for granted assumptions, it serves to provoke new insights into how firm growth works, how it can be conceptualized, and how it can be studied. In terms of methodology the thesis is based on a qualitative case study design. The process of small firm growth is explored in four separate research papers. In paper I the rural firm growth literature is reviewed and three areas of focus are discussed; the output of growth, the process of growth, and the context of growth. In Paper II focus lies on trigger points - events preceding bursts of growth - showing how these unfold through informal everyday interaction. Paper III shows that making sense of growth is problematic and that the phenomenon may be made sense of in distinct ways; as output indicators, as the internal development of the firm, and as a necessity to which the firm has to conform. Paper IV shows how growth unfolds through the interactions between multiple components, and thus promotes shifting the unit of analysis from individual components to the system of components and their interactions. By reviewing the philosophical foundations informing both the main stream and alternative perspectives in small firm growth research, this thesis provide an informed position from which we can rethink firm growth. It contributes to the literature and the general understanding of small firm growth by critically discussing how growth is conceptualized and by advocating two alternative conceptualizations in firm growth as constructed and as complex. This thesis also contributes by showing that firm growth is more than an output measure, it is a heterogeneous and multifaceted process challenging to both understand and manage. Finally, it shows the potential of theoretical and methodological frameworks stemming from both the linguistic turn and from complexity science for advancing our understanding of how firms grow.

Keywords

firm growth, small firms, process, growing, linguistic turn, discourse analysis, complexity science

Published in

Acta Universitatis Agriculturae Sueciae
2017, number: 2017:64
ISBN: 978-91-7760-018-3, eISBN: 978-91-7760-019-0
Publisher: Department of Economics, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Business Administration

    Permanent link to this page (URI)

    https://res.slu.se/id/publ/104123