Firm growth through disruption: Insights into internal dynamics

Ivana Milosevic, A. Erin Bass, Mary Uhl-Bien, Nicholas J. Arreola, Erin G. Pleggenkuhle-Miles

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Studies examining how small firms grow have suggested that growth is complex due to ongoing disruptions. However, the dynamics of small firm growth remain underexplored. Using findings from a case study of a small firm, we illustrate that small firms grow by responding to nonroutine disruptions—disruptions that cannot be resolved using current knowledge. Nonroutine disruptions trigger one of two situations: one of ambiguity where individuals form divergent interpretations of the disruption, thereby experiencing high levels of tension, and one of certainty where individuals form convergent interpretations of disruption, thereby experiencing low levels of tension. To generate a novel response to a disruption, individuals must create an optimal level of tension, either by connecting divergent interpretations or breaking convergent ones. In explicating how this unfolds, we illustrate the internal dynamics of growth, occurring in the ebb and flow movement as individuals build new growth pathways in response to disruptions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)95-105
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of the International Council for Small Business
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2024


  • Disruption
  • dynamic adjustments
  • small firm growth

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Accounting
  • Business, Management and Accounting (miscellaneous)


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