This study explores the different learning practices of Chinese incubators in Chongqing and Chengdu and delves into how these “learning huddles” influence incubatees' absorptive capacity (the ability to apply knowledge) to improve their chance of success (sustainable growth).
This explorative study uses a qualitative case study approach by means of semi-structured interviews with business incubation managers and incubatees across three business incubators in Chengdu and Chongqing. The data are transcribed, coded and analyzed using an analytic map for the explanation of building and reflecting on the theoretical propositions, leading to a further understanding of the “learning huddle” mechanism.
The study finds that incubatees perceive that their absorptive capacity is increased through vicarious informal learning practices that promote access to networks and thereby builds social capital to improve their likelihood of success.
This study has limitations in sample size and design. The explorative case study approach uses a nonrandom case selection of three incubators in Chongqing and Chengdu and has a limited number of interviewees, which may lack representation of the general Chinese business incubation population and may not sufficiently be generalized beyond the sample itself.
These findings have important implications for business incubation programs. Business incubators that build learning huddles (networks) create a nurturing shared learning environment, which is suitable for incubatees to collectively absorb knowledge at the early stage of their life cycle and improve their likelihood of sustainable growth.
Since this study is limited to a Chinese context, it is also hoped that future researchers use the typology of business incubator learning practices to explore cross-culture variables, as these may influence the business incubation operations and performance.
This study adds to the discussion on how collective learning practices facilitate absorptive capacity and build social capital, which in turn improves incubatees' chance of sustainable growth and as such the authors hope that the learning practice's typology and how incubatees determine their success stimulates further research for measuring the likelihood of incubatees sustainable growth.