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Identifying and explaining environmental complexity


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Jones, CD 2009 , 'Identifying and explaining environmental complexity', paper presented at the Institute for Small Business and Entrepreneurship 32nd Conference, 3-6 November 2009, Liverpool, UK.

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Available under University of Tasmania Standard License.


Objective: This paper aims to introduce the reader to a simple, yet challenging process of reconceptualising the
dimensions of any firm's environment. In doing so, it is the intention of this paper to challenge the manner in which
resource movement within a given environment is accounted for.
Prior Work: This paper builds upon the author's recent work focused upon restaurant survival in Australia and the
UK (i.e. North Yorkshire) that have demonstrated the importance of defining the ecological, selective and general
dimensions of the environment experienced and influenced by individual firms.
Approach: The epistemological foundations of this paper are guided by the principles of the critical realism
approach, specifically transcendental realism. Using a mixed method approach has allowed firm survival data
(from 2,440 firms) for the period 1975 to 2004 to be combined with researcher observations, qualitative interviews
and local archival data.
Results: It is argued that once we can determine the nature of the environment experienced by individual firms,
we are able to better understand the flow of resources (or energy) upon which firm survival is dependent. This
paper demonstrates (via high levels of triangulation) that the nature of interaction (deliberate or otherwise)
occurring between firms in isolated towns can be reconciled to their capacity to capture vital resources directly
related to their survival.
Implications and Value: This paper is highly innovative, introducing numerous ecological concepts not
previously used in the social sciences to explain firm survival. For example, the issue of ecological scale is used
to reduce the researcher's focus from regional to town specific survival factors. Such fine grained investigation
allows causal factors to be discovered and confirmed empirically. Rather than assuming that (resource specific)
networks are visible, this paper demonstrates the importance of identifying invisible networks that may operate
and therefore influence firm survival at different levels of ecological scale.
Researchers discussing/researching the nature of complex environments make various assumptions about the
composition of such environments. Likewise, when the issue of resource networks is considered, assumptions are
made about the flows of resources between entrepreneurs and their environments. This paper challenges these
assumptions, offering new ways to think about both.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Authors/Creators:Jones, CD
Keywords: Keywords: Ecological Environment, Selective Environment, and General Environment
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