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Why it takes an ‘ontological shock’ to prompt increases in small firm resilience: Sensemaking, emotions and flood risk

Harries, Tim; McEwen, Lindsey; Wragg, Amanda

Why it takes an ‘ontological shock’ to prompt increases in small firm resilience: Sensemaking, emotions and flood risk Thumbnail


Tim Harries

Lindsey McEwen
Professor in Environmental Management

Amanda Wragg


© The Author(s) 2018. This article uses a sensemaking approach to understand small firms’ responses to the threat of external shocks. By analysing semi-structured interviews with owners of flooded small firms, we investigate how owners process flood experiences and explore why such experiences do not consistently lead to the resilient adaptation of premises. We, conclude that some of the explanation for low levels of adaptation relates to a desire to defend existing sensemaking structures and associated identities. Sensemaking structures are only revised if these structures are not critical to business identity, or if a flood constitutes an ‘ontological shock’ and renders untenable existing assumptions regarding long-term business continuity. This article has implications for adaptation to the growing risk of flooding, climate change and external shocks. Future research analysing external shocks would benefit from using a sensemaking approach and survey studies should include measurements of ‘ontological’ impact as well as material and financial damage. In addition, those designing information campaigns should take account of small firms’ resistance to information that threatens their existing sensemaking structures and social identities.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Feb 22, 2018
Online Publication Date May 9, 2018
Publication Date Sep 1, 2018
Deposit Date Mar 16, 2018
Publicly Available Date Mar 16, 2018
Journal International Small Business Journal: Researching Entrepreneurship
Print ISSN 0266-2426
Electronic ISSN 1741-2870
Publisher SAGE Publications
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 36
Issue 6
Pages 712-733
Keywords floods, resilience, sensemaking, external shocks, climate change adaptation, business continuity, emotions
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information Additional Information : Copyright(c)2018 Reprinted by permission of SAGE publications.
Contract Date Mar 16, 2018


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