Linda Argote was named the 2012 Distinguished Scholar by the Organization and Management Theory Division of the Academy of Management. She gave this presentation on the occasion of her award, August 6, 2012, in Boston, Mass.
Linda Argote 2012 OMT Division Distinguished Scholar Talk
Learning about Organizational Learning Linda Argote Tepper School of Business Carnegie Mellon UniversityOMT Distinguished Scholar Presentation Academy of Management August 2012
The Relationship Between Assembly Hours Per Aircraft & Cumulative Output Assembly Hours Per Aircraft Cumulative OutputReprinted from L. Argote and D. Epple, Learning curves in manufacturing, Science, Volume 247, Number4945, (February, 1990). Copyright 1990, American Association for the Advancement of Science. Units omittedto protect confidentiality of data.
Relationship Between Direct Labor Hours Per Truck and Cumulative Output for Three Truck Plants From Argote, L., & Epple, D. (1990). Learning curves in manufacturing. Science, 247, 920-924.
Research Questions• Why are some organizations better at learning from experience than others?• Does organizational knowledge persist through time or does it depreciate?• Can organizational knowledge be transferred from one establishment to another?
Factors Managers Identify as Explaining the Learning Curve• Increased proficiency of individuals• Improved coordination and structures• Improved tools and layout• Better knowledge of who is good at what – Transactive memory system
Early Streams of Research on Organizational Learning• Argyris & Schon, 1978 – Defensive routines prevent learning• Cyert & March, 1963 – Experience coded into routines which affect future behavior• Dutton & Thomas, 1984 – Learning Curves – improvements in performance associated with experience
Dramatic Increase in Organizational Learning Research over Last 25 Years• Research developments – Levitt & March (1988) Annual Review of Sociology theory paper – Developments in statistics and methods that enabled drawing inferences from longitudinal field data (Miner & Mezias, 1996)• Practical developments – Many organizations, especially in U.S., experienced productivity problems (Krugman, 1991) – Concerns about knowledge retention as the baby boom starts to retire – Increasing globalization and distribution of work around the globe – Increasing use of multi-unit organizational form (Baum & Greve, 2001).
Increasing Interest in Organizational Learning• Handbooks – Handbook of Organizational Learning and Knowledge • Dierkes, Antal, Child & Nonaka, 2001 – Blackwell Handbook of Organizational Learning and Knowledge Management • Easterby-Smith & Lyles, 2003 – Many books and articles
Organizational Learning• Change in the group or organization associated with experience• Change in the group’s or organizations knowledge associated with experience (Fiol & Lyles, 1985)• Indicators of change in knowledge – Change in cognitions (Huff & Jenkins, 2001) – Change in routines (Cyert & March, 1963; Levitt & March, 1988) – Change in range of potential behavior (Huber, 1991) – Change in characteristics of performance such as speed, costs and quality (Argote & Epple, 1990; Dutton & Thomas, 1984)
Levels of Analysis• Learning occurs at different levels of analysis – Reagans, Argote & Brooks, 2005 – Individual – Group – Organizational• In order for learning to be organizational knowledge has to be embedded in a supra-individual repository – A practice or a routine – A data base – A transactive memory system
Current and Emerging Research Themes1. Characterizing experience2. Importance of context3. Organizational memory4. Knowledge transfer5. Implications for entrepreneurship and strategic management
Theme 1: Characterizing Experience at a Fine-Grained Level• Reviews in Baum’s The Blackwell Companion to Organizations – Argote & Ophir, 2002 – Schulz, 2002 – Ingram, 2002
Theme 1: Characterizing Experience at a Fine-Grained LevelArgote & Miron-Spektor, 2011 – Provides a more unified treatment of experience to identify conditions under which it improves, harms or has no effect on learning processes and outcomes – Enables understanding of relationships between different types of experience: substitutes or complements • e.g., Wong, 2004; Haas & Hansen, 2004; Bresman, 2010 – Facilitates designing experience to promote organizational learning
Theme 2: Importance of the ContextContext• Includes the organization – Culture − Goals – Technology − Incentives – Structure − Strategy – Social networks – Shared identities• Includes the environment – Relationships with other organizations – Competitors − Institutions – Clients − Regulators
Theme 2: Importance of the Context• Context as contingency Context Experience Knowledge
Theme 2: Importance of the Context: Structural Factors• Semi-isolated subgroups with moderate cross-group linkages promote organizational learning (Fang, Lee & Schilling, 2010)• Decentralization increases explorative learning (Jansen, Van Den Bosch & Volberda, 2006), especially in uncertain environments (Ethiraj & Levinthal, 2004; Siggelkow & Levinthal, 2003; Siggelkow & Rivkin, 2005)• Specialization and formalization increase learning at the team level because they increase information sharing and reduce conflict (Bunderson & Boumgarden, 2010).• Specialist organizations benefit more from experience than generalist organizations (Barnett, Greve & Park, 1994; Ingram & Baum, 1997; Haunschild & Sullivan, 2002)
Theme 2: Importance of the Context• A culture of psychological safety facilitates organizational learning (Edmondson, 1999)• A “learning” (as opposed to a “performing”) orientation facilitates organizational learning up to a point (Bunderson & Sutcliffe, 2003)• A superordinate identity facilitates learning from the experience of others (Kane, Argote & Levine, 2005)
A Theoretical Framework for Analyzing Organizational Learning Task ExperienceArgote & Miron-Spektor, 2011
Theme 3: Memory• Where and how is knowledge embedded in organizations? – Walsh & Ungson, 1991; Argote & Ingram, 2000• Very active research on two knowledge repositories – Routines • Winter, 1987 • Cohen & Bacdayan, 1994 • Feldman & Pentland, 2003 • Becker, 2004, 2008 – Transactive memory systems • Wegner, 1986 • Liang, Moreland & Argote, 1995 • Hollingshead, 1998, 2001 • Faraj & Sproull, 2000 • Lewis, 2003, 2004 • Austin, 2003 • Lewis, Lange, & Gilles, 2005 • Majchrzak, Javernpaa & Hollinghsead, 2007 • Yuan, Fulk, Monge & Contractor, 2010 • Ren & Argote, 2011
Theme 3: Memory Future Directions• What explains variation in knowledge depreciation? • Does knowledge in different repositories decay at different rates? • Does knowledge acquired from different kinds of experience decay at different rates? – Madsen & Desai, 2010
Theme 4: Knowledge Transfer• Current Themes – What are effective mechanisms of knowledge transfer? • Personnel movement (Almedia & Kogut,1999) • Social networks (Reagans & McEvily, 2003) • Alliances (Gulati, 1999; Rosenkopf & Almeida, 2003) • Templates (Winter, Szulanski, Ringov & Jensen, 2012) – What are conditions that facilitate or impede knowledge transfer? • Characteristics of units – Power and status (Contu & Wilmott, 2003; Sine, Shane & Di Gregorio, 2003) • Characteristics of knowledge – Tacitness (Hansen 1999) • Characteristics of relationship between source and recipient – Superordinate identity (Kane, Argote & Levine, 2005) – Similarity (Darr & Kurtzberg, 2000) – Quality of relationships (Szulanski, 1996)
Theme 4: Knowledge Transfer and New Directions• How do new tools, such as those enabled by Web 2.0 technologies, affect knowledge transfer?• How is the process of learning from indirect experience, knowledge transfer, similar to or different from the process of learning from direct experience?• What is the best learned through direct experience and what is the best learned through indirect experience?• What is the relationship between organizational memory and knowledge transfer? – Levine and Prietula (in press) showed that greater access to organizational memory weakened the benefits of knowledge transfer
Theme 5: Strategic Implications• Previous experience is valuable for new entrepreneurial ventures – Philips, 2002 – Klepper & Sleeper, 2005 – Beckman & Burton, 2008• What transfers from parent firms to new ventures?
Theme 5: Strategic Implications• A Transaction Memory System (TMS) includes a collective awareness of “who knows and does what” and a set of frameworks and a shared language that allows team members to coordinate their joint activities (Wegner, 1987)• Teams that develop a TMS outperform teams that are unable to develop a TMS
Theme 5: Strategic Implications Indirect Evidence Transactive Memory Systems Transfer• De novo firm with preproduction experience performed better initially than de novo firms without preproduction experience or de alio firms. No evidence that technology explained performance advantages (Carroll, Bigelow, Seidel & Tsai, 1995)• Failure rate of firm decreased as the proportion of founding team members from a parent firm increased and the number of parent firms decreased (Philips, 2002)
Theme 5: Strategic Implications: Indirect Evidence Transactive Memory Systems Transfer• Interfirm mobility has the greatest effect when collectives rather than individuals move (Wezel, Cattani & Pennings, 2006)• Analysts who move with their teams perform better than analysts who move solo (Groysberg & Lee, 2009)• Surgeons who perform the same operation in different hospitals differ dramatically in their outcomes (Huckman & Pisano, 2006)• Individuals moving with their team would have the benefit of a transactive memory system while those moving by themselves would not
Theme 5: Strategic Implications• Transactive memory systems are a source of competitive advantage (Argote & Ren, in press)• Develop based on experience working together (Liang, Moreland & Argote, 1995)• Idiosyncratic to a particular organization: context dependent• Have many components which fit each other• Can be adapted to new tasks (Lewis, Lange & Gillis, 2005) and facilitate innovation (Gino, Argote, Miron- Spektor & Todorova, 2010)• Hard for competitors to imitate