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Coming in from the cold: The experience of group coaching as a setting for entrepreneurial learning and change

E Ostrowski 2018

The challenges of entrepreneurship make learning integral to the entrepreneurial process. However, many entrepreneurs work in relative isolation and lack opportunities to engage with peers in ways that promote meaningful reflection and learning. This study explores the experience of group coaching as a setting for meaningful learning and change in entrepreneurs. Scholars studying similar group settings have shown that social processes, including those related to peer learning and identity work, contribute to entrepreneurial learning (EL) and identity construction in important ways. Still, relatively little is known about how these social processes unfold or about the different types of social contexts in which EL occurs. This study advances the literature through a narrative exploration of eight entrepreneurs’ experiences navigating challenges related to entrepreneurial learning and identity in the social context of their coaching groups. Data collection was accomplished via one-on-one, semi-structured narrative interviews with each participant. The data were interpreted using separate and sequential narrative/performative and thematic analytical methods to produce an in-depth, multidimensional understanding of the data. Participants’ stories depicted group coaching as a viable context for supporting entrepreneurial learning and change on multiple levels. In addition, the study findings contribute to an understanding of where or under what conditions EL unfolds within group coaching, and how or in what ways participant entrepreneurs experience learning in this context. Finally, the relational context of the interview itself was found to contribute to participants’ meaning making, directly influencing their constructions of past events and their meaning. The study presents practical implications for coaches, coaching educators, and entrepreneurs, as well as recommendations for future research.

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