Organization Science                                                                                                      ...
Lewis et al.: Transactive Memory Systems, Learning, and Learning Transfer582                                              ...
Lewis et al.: Transactive Memory Systems, Learning, and Learning TransferOrganization Science 16(6), pp. 581–598, © 2005 I...
Lewis et al.: Transactive Memory Systems, Learning, and Learning Transfer584                                              ...
Lewis et al.: Transactive Memory Systems, Learning, and Learning TransferOrganization Science 16(6), pp. 581–598, © 2005 I...
Lewis et al.: Transactive Memory Systems, Learning, and Learning Transfer586                                              ...
Lewis et al.: Transactive Memory Systems, Learning, and Learning TransferOrganization Science 16(6), pp. 581–598, © 2005 I...
Lewis et al.: Transactive Memory Systems, Learning, and Learning Transfer588                                              ...
Lewis et al.: Transactive Memory Systems, Learning, and Learning TransferOrganization Science 16(6), pp. 581–598, © 2005 I...
Lewis et al.: Transactive Memory Systems, Learning, and Learning Transfer590                                              ...
Lewis et al.: Transactive Memory Systems, Learning, and Learning TransferOrganization Science 16(6), pp. 581–598, © 2005 I...
Lewis et al.: Transactive Memory Systems, Learning, and Learning Transfer592                                              ...
Lewis et al.: Transactive Memory Systems, Learning, and Learning TransferOrganization Science 16(6), pp. 581–598, © 2005 I...
Lewis & al 2005
Lewis & al 2005
Lewis & al 2005
Lewis & al 2005
Lewis & al 2005
Lewis & al 2005
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Lewis & al 2005

  1. 1. Organization Science informs ®Vol. 16, No. 6, November–December 2005, pp. 581–598 doi 10.1287/orsc.1050.0143issn 1047-7039 eissn 1526-5455 05 1606 0581 © 2005 INFORMS Transactive Memory Systems, Learning, and Learning Transfer Kyle Lewis, Donald Lange, Lynette Gillis Department of Management, University of Texas at Austin, 1 University Station B6300, Austin, Texas 78712-0210 {kyle.lewis@mccombs.utexas.edu, donald.lange@phd.mccombs.utexas.edu, lynette.gillis@phd.mccombs.utexas.edu} K nowledge embedded in a group’s structures and processes can be leveraged to create sustainable advantage for orga- nizations. We propose that knowledge embedded with a transactive memory system (TMS) helps groups apply prior learning to new tasks and develop an abstract understanding of a problem domain, leading to sustained performance. We present a framework for understanding TMSs as learning systems that affect group learning and learning transfer, and we test the major outcomes of the framework in an empirical study. We found that groups with a prior TMS and experience with two tasks in the same domain were more likely to develop an abstract understanding of the principles relevant to the task domain—a critical factor for learning transfer in general. We did not, however, find strong support for our contention that a TMS facilitates learning transfer after experience with only a single task. Further examinations of our findings showed that the extent to which members maintained expertise across tasks influenced the degree of learning transfer, especially for groups whose members had previously developed a TMS with another group. Our findings show that a TMS has broader benefits beyond the task for which it first developed because a TMS affects members’ ability to apply prior learning and develop a collective, abstract understanding of the task domain. More generally, our study demonstrates that TMSs influence group learning and learning transfer. We discuss our study’s implications for practice and for TMS and group learning theories. Key words: learning; transactive memory1. Introduction knowledge, coordinate members’ interactions moreGroup performance in contexts as varied as product effectively, and perform at higher levels than do groupsdevelopment, consulting, research and development, and without a TMS (Liang et al. 1995; Moreland 1999;top management depends on the collaborative processes Moreland et al. 1996, 1998; Moreland and Myaskovskymembers use to combine and integrate their unique 2000).knowledge. As members collaborate, they encode, inter- These laboratory studies were instrumental in bring-pret, and recall information together, and in so doing ing the TMS concept and its effects to the attentionthey create knowledge that becomes embedded in of researchers and practitioners. An objective of thesea group’s structures and processes (Moreland 1999). studies was to show how a TMS enhances task perfor-Embedded knowledge is difficult to recognize and mea- mance on the same task for which the TMS first devel-sure, but it is also difficult to imitate, making it a key oped. However, that focus does not capture the fact thatpoint of leverage for organizations (Argote and Ingram most organizational workgroups perform a variety of2000). The goal of this study is to explain how embed- tasks, either in the context of a single project, or acrossded knowledge can be leveraged to create sustained sequential streams of projects over time (Waller et al.group performance. We examine knowledge embedded 2002). Knowing whether the effects of a TMS persist inwith a group’s transactive memory system (TMS), which dynamic task environments is critical to understandingwe argue influences group learning and performance the real impact of TMSs in organizations. Several recentacross several tasks. field studies (Austin 2003, Faraj and Sproull 2000, Lewis A TMS is a collective memory system for encoding, 2003) provide early evidence that TMSs may have long-storing, retrieving, and communicating group knowl- term value in ongoing groups, but none of these stud-edge (Hollingshead 2001, Wegner 1986). TMSs develop ies specifically examines whether the effects of a TMSover time as group members communicate, observe each extend beyond the task for which it first developed.other’s actions, and come to rely on one another to We offer an explanation for the positive effects ofbe responsible for different but complementary areas of a TMS on group performance that generally has beenexpertise. Laboratory studies of TMSs demonstrate that overlooked by group TMS research: TMSs help mem-in groups that develop a TMS, members collectively bers learn, both individually and collectively. We con-remember and apply a greater amount of task-critical ceptualize TMSs as learning systems that affect group 581
  2. 2. Lewis et al.: Transactive Memory Systems, Learning, and Learning Transfer582 Organization Science 16(6), pp. 581–598, © 2005 INFORMSlearning and learning transfer to produce sustained predictions. We conclude by discussing the implicationsgroup performance. Drawing on TMS theory (Wegner of these results and by offering recommendations for1986, Wegner et al. 1985), and on learning and learn- capitalizing on the value of TMSs in organizations.ing transfer theories (e.g., Reeves and Weisberg 1994,Singley and Anderson 1989), we develop a frameworkto explain: (1) how a TMS promotes cycles of learning 2. TMS-Learning Frameworkthat produce not only knowledge that is relevant for the Our TMS-learning framework shows that a TMS pro-current task, but also transferable knowledge that can be duces cycles of learning with effects that extend beyondapplied to other tasks in the same domain, and (2) how a the task for which the TMS first developed, to otherTMS helps members collectively apply prior knowledge tasks that a group performs. We adopt Argote’s (1999,to benefit performance in new task contexts. p. 131) definition of group learning as a process wherein This learning perspective is useful for understanding members share their own knowledge, generate newthe value of TMSs in organizations, especially those knowledge, and evaluate and combine this knowledge.organizations in which leveraging prior knowledge by Our use of the term learning transfer is consistent withtransferring learning across contexts or to different cus- Singley and Anderson (1989) and Cormier and Hagmantomers is critical to firm performance (Argote 1999). (1987); learning transfer is defined as occurring whenFor such firms, leveraging experience gained on one knowledge acquired in one situation affects learning ortask to produce efficiencies and higher-quality products performance in other situations. We refer to learningand services is critical to both winning new business that occurs as a consequence of having developed aand increasing the likelihood that future activities are TMS as TMS learning. We refer to the learning trans-profitable. fer facilitated by a TMS as TMS-learning transfer. The In sections that follow, we present a framework for TMS-learning framework is depicted in Figure 1. Theunderstanding TMSs as learning systems that includes framework describes the learning processes, knowledgepredictions about the effects of TMSs on group learn- outcomes, and transfer mechanisms for a group whoseing, learning transfer, and performance, and we present members have no prior history together, as the groupthe results of an empirical study designed to test our performs several tasks.Figure 1 TMS-Learning Framework Activities: Perform Develop TMS Perform Task 1 Perform Task 2 subsequent tasks Learning Learning Learning Cycle 1 Cycle 2 Cycle 3 (Section 2.1) (Section 2.2) (Section 2.3) 1 TMS 2 3 TMS Learning TMS Learning TMS Learning Shared location information Refined location information Increasingly abstract higher- More individual lower-order Additional shared higher-order order knowledge information (expertise) information Understanding of underlying TMS processes for encoding, Elaborated, contextualized principles of task domain storing, retrieving knowledge Shared higher-order Patterns for communicating, information retrieving information Performance Mechanisms Transfer Mechanisms Learning/Transfer Mechanisms Availability of task-relevant Transferable knowledge Interactive cueing that facilitates expertise structures analogical encoding Retrieval, coordination, Recognition, retrieval, and Shared higher-order knowledge utilization of expertise mapping of transactive that facilitates collective knowledge induction Evidence of abstract learning/ Evidence of TMS learning Evidence of TMS learning: transfer: transfer: Task 1 performance Strategic knowledge of Task 2 performance (Tested by H1) task domain (Tested by H2 and H4) (Tested by H3 and H5)
  3. 3. Lewis et al.: Transactive Memory Systems, Learning, and Learning TransferOrganization Science 16(6), pp. 581–598, © 2005 INFORMS 583 Our TMS-learning framework applies to those groups known as the location for software engineering infor-for which TMSs are especially helpful—groups that mation. Similarly, Tim might come to be known as theperform complex, divisible tasks that require consider- location for information about product sales and mar-able knowledge (Moreland et al. 1996). Divisible tasks keting, and Mina might be known as the location for(Steiner 1972) allow members to divide the cognitive customer support information. We return to this examplelabor for the task and integrate knowledge possessed throughout this section.by different members. More generally, our framework Also stored in the TMS structure are the specific factsapplies to task-oriented workgroups whose members and details, or lower-order information, that each mem-share responsibility for producing group outcomes, and ber possesses about a particular topic (Wegner et al.whose performance depends on coordinating and inte- 1985). In the product management group example above,grating the various skills, knowledge, and activities lower-order information in the TMS structure mightof group members. Some examples of groups where include particulars about recently implemented function-our framework applies include crews, product develop- ality and bug fixes (lower-order information possessedment teams, consulting and other project teams, research by Joanne), data about product sales performance for theand development teams, self-managing teams, and top last two quarters in each customer market (possessed bymanagement teams. Our framework does not apply Tim), and information relevant to complaints receivedto workgroups that have loosely defined membership, from customers (possessed by Mina).no definable collaborative task, or low coordination The location information and lower-order informationand specialization needs. Groups with one or more of that make up the initial TMS structure affect what andthese attributes include informal groups, interest groups, how much each member decides to learn. In particu-advice groups, ad hoc committees, and communities of lar, an understanding of others’ expertise affects a mem-practice. ber’s choice to learn in an area other than those already The TMS-learning transfer effects described by our associated with another member (Hollingshead 2001,framework are bounded by the limits on learning trans- Wittenbaum et al. 1998). As a result, individual membersfer in general. Learning transfer is limited to settings come to specialize in different areas, and the group’sin which the tasks are functionally similar (Singley and knowledge becomes more differentiated. Furthermore,Anderson 1989)—that is, when the tasks share similar when members rely on other members to be responsibletask elements and when the strategies used to perform for information in their respective specialty areas, eachone task are applicable to the other. Furthermore, learn- member is free to develop more knowledge in his or hering transfer is possible only when an individual’s prior own specialty area (Hollingshead 1998, Wegner et al.knowledge is in some way relevant to the transfer task. 1991). In these ways, the initial TMS structure affectsThus, our framework applies to tasks that are function- the content and extent of each member’s learning.ally similar, and to tasks for which members’ learning Transactive processes (Wegner et al. 1985), the secondcan be relevant. Finally, because our specific interest is component of a TMS, are established during Learningin the effects of TMSs on learning and performance, Cycle 1 through a group’s early interactions. Transactiveother social or attitudinal factors that may influence processes function through the interaction and commu-group processes and performance are not explicitly inte- nication among members to encode, store, and retrievegrated into the framework. The TMS-learning frame- knowledge relevant to the group’s task. When memberswork is represented in terms of three TMS-learning first communicate, they rely on the initial TMS structurecycles, each of which is described below. to establish transactive processes. For example, mem- bers query others about information they presume to be2.1. Learning Cycle 1: Initial TMS Learning associated with each member and allocate new informa-The first learning cycle produces a TMS, consist- tion encountered by the group to the appropriate mem-ing of both an initial TMS structure—an organized ber. Using location information, a member can retrievestore of knowledge that is contained within members’ information quickly and efficiently when needed for thememories—and a set of transactive processes that mem- task, without having to possess that information him orbers use to encode, store, and retrieve that knowledge herself.(Wegner et al. 1985). A TMS begins to develop when Transactive processes, in turn, affect the TMS struc-group members start to associate individual members ture. First, communicating helps members gain a morewith specific areas of knowledge. Information about accurate understanding of what members know (or domembers’ expertise is stored in the TMS structure as not know), and over the course of repeated interactions,location information (Wegner et al. 1985).1 Take, for makes members’ location information more similar andexample, a group tasked with managing a software prod- more accurate. Second, interacting can lead to whatuct, composed of members Joanne, Tim, and Mina. Wegner refers to as integrations of members’ knowledgeMembers might come to associate Joanne with informa- (Wegner et al. 1985). Integrations result when mem-tion about software and design—Joanne would then be bers discover links between members’ knowledge and
  4. 4. Lewis et al.: Transactive Memory Systems, Learning, and Learning Transfer584 Organization Science 16(6), pp. 581–598, © 2005 INFORMScreate new knowledge that no member had previously performance. TMS learning occurs, for example, whilepossessed. For example, suppose Joanne, Tim, and Mina the group performs its task. When a group performs itsare discussing lagging sales of their software product. task, members encode and store new information aboutDuring their discussion, members explore their respec- the task, other members, and other members’ knowl-tive sets of lower-order information (i.e., details about edge (Brandon and Hollingshead 2004). Learning dur-software engineering, sales, and customers) that are rele- ing task performance comprises Learning Cycle 2 of ourvant to information about sales performance. Integrating TMS-learning framework. Learning by doing is espe-their views may lead the members to a group-generated cially important when the context is integral to perfor-solution—for example, the recognition that customers mance (Argote 1999), for example, when learning occursfrom a particular market segment have been complain- in the presence of other group members. Learning bying about product functionality alterations in the current doing affects both parts of a TMS—the TMS structureproduct release. As a consequence of their collective and the set of transactive processes that operate on thatdiscovery, members integrate relevant details about soft- structure.ware engineering, sales, and customers, and encode that Performing a group task affects the informationinformation into their TMS. Integrated information is encoded and stored in the TMS structure in at least threeencoded as shared higher-order information, defined as ways. First, seeing what works and does not work andthe “topic, theme, or gist” of some set of lower-order observing how individuals perform individually and col-information (Wegner et al. 1985, p. 264). In the prod- lectively may cause revisions or refinements to mem-uct management group example, a shared higher-order bers’ understanding of who knows what (i.e., locationtopic, “determinants of declining sales,” might repre- information). Second, as members share and discusssent members’ newly discovered knowledge about the information, they may discover new ways that individu-causes of sales problems in a particular market segment. als’ lower-order information can be integrated as sharedThe shared higher-order topic points to specific lower- higher-order information (Wegner et al. 1985). Third,order information about product functionality, sales fig- observing interactions and taking part in discussionsures, and complaining customers that all members can during which knowledge is exchanged helps membersretrieve. Thus, relying on an initial TMS structure and develop a more elaborated, contextualized understand-set of transactive processes can produce new collective ing of their own knowledge. A semantically elaboratedknowledge that is stored as higher-order information in memory (cf. Anderson and Reder 1979, Wegner et al.the TMS. 1985) results when a member draws inferences about an Articulating the processes involved in developing a item of information and considers its meaning in rela-TMS reveals the links between TMSs and individual tion to other information. Observing other members andand collective learning. By the end of Learning Cycle 1, taking part in group discussions help a member buildmembers will have learned who possesses what exper- elaborated knowledge structures that represent how atise, developed new member-level knowledge in the form member’s own knowledge fits with and builds on otherof specialized expertise, and developed new collective members’ task-related knowledge. Marks et al. (2002,knowledge in the form of shared higher-order informa- p. 4) refer to this type of knowledge as “interrole knowl-tion. Ultimately, the effects of Learning Cycle 1 are evi- edge,” an understanding of the content of and interre-dent in the group’s performance on the task for which lationships among members’ knowledge. Their researchthe TMS developed. Past TMS research demonstrates found that when members were aware of one another’sthat groups perform better when they develop and rely jobs, roles, and expertise, they developed shared concep-on established TMS structures and processes (e.g., Liang tualizations of interrole knowledge, which in turn pos-et al. 1995). Learning Cycle 1 produces those struc- itively influenced group coordination and performance.tures and processes, as well as TMS learning, to make a We expect that by simultaneously refining location infor-greater amount of relevant knowledge available for task mation and facilitating a contextualized understandingprocessing. To replicate past research findings and lay of members’ knowledge, learning by doing will producethe foundation for predictions about subsequent learning shared conceptualizations of interrole knowledge.cycles, we hypothesize that: In addition to affecting the TMS structure, learning by Hypothesis 1. Groups with a TMS (groups that have doing affects transactive processes. Performing the taskcompleted Learning Cycle 1) will demonstrate higher provides feedback about the efficacy of interactions fortask performance than will groups with no TMS. retrieving and sharing information and helps set patterns for future interaction. Research on habitual routines in2.2. Learning Cycle 2: Learning by Doing groups suggests that patterned interactions do develop inOur learning systems perspective suggests that TMS groups, and that they develop very quickly (cf. Gersicklearning continues after a TMS has developed, and that and Hackman 1990, Hackman and Morris 1975). Eventhis learning has effects that extend beyond initial task while a group performs a single task, there are likely
  5. 5. Lewis et al.: Transactive Memory Systems, Learning, and Learning TransferOrganization Science 16(6), pp. 581–598, © 2005 INFORMS 585to be many opportunities to execute patterns of com- to learning transfer described above. We contend thatmunication and elicitation (Rulke and Rau 2000). For Learning Cycle 2 influences the degree to which mem-example, a member who repeatedly queries others dur- bers transfer their prior learning because: (1) learning bying task performance might initiate a pattern of interac- doing helps create abstract knowledge structures storedtion characterized by members volunteering information within the TMS structure, and (2) utilizing an estab-only after being asked. A different pattern might emerge lished TMS both helps members collectively recognizein response to a member who withholds information functional similarities and underlying principles com-from his/her expertise area—others might become more mon to tasks, and helps members retrieve and mapaggressive in asking for information from that mem- prior knowledge and problem-solving strategies to theber, or they might forego interacting with that member new task.altogether. 2.2.2. Transferable Knowledge Structures. Learning In sum, learning by doing during task performance Cycle 2 produces three types of transferable knowledgehelps members refine location information and develop that can be relevant in new task contexts. First, indi-an elaborated, contextualized understanding of how vidual knowledge produced from learning by doing istheir own task-relevant knowledge relates to others’ elaborated and contextualized as a result of memberstask-relevant knowledge. Learning Cycle 2 also helps learning more about their own specializations and moreestablish patterns for communicating and retrieving about how their knowledge relates to others’ knowl-information, which reduce uncertainty about how group edge and to the task. Individuals with more elaborate,interactions ought to proceed (Gersick and Hackman abstract representations of task-relevant knowledge are1990). Learning Cycle 2 has the effect of making groups more likely to identify when tasks are indeed function-more effective and efficient at performing the same task ally similar and recognize how their prior knowledgefor which the TMS initially developed. We argue that applies in a novel context. Second, shared location infor-Learning Cycle 2 also affects tasks other than the task mation refined during Learning Cycle 2 will remainfor which a TMS initially developed, by facilitating useful in a new task context as long as membershiptransfer of learning across tasks. and expertise specializations remain somewhat stable. 2.2.1. TMSs and Learning Transfer. Individuals are Finally, shared higher-order information is likely tooften unable to transfer learning from one situation to remain relevant when members recognize that tasksanother because they fail to notice the functional simi- have underlying principles and elements in common. Inlarities and underlying principles common across tasks our product management group example, market sales(Singley and Anderson 1989). Research on individual- trends, software functionality, and customer feedback arelevel learning transfer shows that whether a person key task elements relevant to the group’s initial task. Thewho has acquired knowledge in one situation applies group members integrated these task elements under theit to other situations depends largely upon that per- higher-order concept “determinants of declining sales.”son’s mental representation of the knowledge (Reeves If the group recognizes that these same task elementsand Weisberg 1994). Individuals who have developed an also apply to a different product context, they will beabstract mental representation of the problem domain able to draw on the same shared higher-order conceptare more likely to recognize when and how prior learn- to retrieve specific sales, software engineering, and cus-ing will apply to a novel task. Without an abstract tomer support information to diagnose sales problemsunderstanding of the underlying principles relevant to a with the new product. Thus, knowledge produced bydomain, however, individuals are more likely to focus TMS-learning cycles is likely to be useful across taskson the superficial features of a task and fail to recognize that share similar elements and underlying principles.that previously learned procedures and strategies could 2.2.3. Recognition, Retrieval, and Mapping ofbe used to solve the problem. Given a group bias for Transactive Knowledge. Utilizing an established TMSdiscussing shared information (Stasser and Titus 1985), affects the degree to which members actually transferthe more members that fail to notice functional simi- prior knowledge by helping members recognize tasklarities across problems, the more likely it is that the similarities and by facilitating retrieval and mapping ofgroup will favor discussion of the superficial features prior learning to a new task. Transactive retrieval pro-over the underlying principles relevant to both problems. cesses refined in Learning Cycle 2 increase the like-In sum, the way that prior knowledge is organized affects lihood that members recognize how prior lower-ordertwo preconditions of learning transfer: (1) recognition of and higher-order knowledge apply to the task. Transac-functional similarities across problems, and (2) mapping tive retrieval processes are characterized by interactiveof prior knowledge and learned problem-solving strate- cueing of members’ recall, a sequential, iterative pro-gies to the new problem (Bassok 1990). cess in which partners cue information from the other’s We argue that having developed and utilized a TMS memory (Hollingshead 1998, Wegner et al. 1985). In aon a task helps groups overcome the impediments group context, interactive cueing involves one member
  6. 6. Lewis et al.: Transactive Memory Systems, Learning, and Learning Transfer586 Organization Science 16(6), pp. 581–598, © 2005 INFORMScueing recall of another member’s knowledge, which in 2.3. Learning Cycle 3 and Beyond: Generalizing toturn helps members recall different information relevant the Task Domainto the group’s task. Interactive cueing that occurs in a TMS learning occurs not only as members performnovel task context can help members retrieve knowledge their initial task, but also as they perform a subse-that they would not otherwise recognize as relevant to quent (transfer) task. In particular, performing a secondthe new task. For example, suppose one member recog- task in the same domain creates increasingly abstractnizes that the initial and new task share a common ele- knowledge about the principles underlying both tasks.ment. When that member uses a commonly understood Research on analogical encoding (e.g., Gentner et al.label for previously encoded information related to the 2003, Loewenstein et al. 1999) shows that comparingtask element, it triggers associations in other members’ two different but analogous problems helps individualsminds. Given this cue, other members can locate and understand the underlying structure common to both. Inretrieve detailed lower-order information relevant to the a recent study, Gentner et al. (2003) found that indi-new task. By relating the new task context to the con- viduals prompted by researchers to compare two differ-text in which information was first encoded, interactive ent negotiation problems not only recognized commoncueing processes improve the chances that what mem- task features, but also developed an abstract understand-bers learned on the initial task will transfer (Singley and ing of the underlying principles of the problem domain.Anderson 1989). By promoting the abstraction of concepts related to the Learning Cycle 2 also establishes patterns of inter- domain, analogical encoding helps individuals recall andaction that are likely to persist in a new task context, transfer prior knowledge across tasks (Gentner et al.especially when members perceive that the initial and 2003, p. 394).new tasks are functionally similar. Members are likely Related conclusions can be drawn from the researchto execute the same patterns established on an initial on collective induction (e.g., Laughlin 1999, Laughlintask, even without explicitly discussing their applicabil-ity or efficacy (Feldman and Rafaeli 2002, Gersick and and Bonner 1999, Laughlin and Hollingshead 1995).Hackman 1990, Louis and Sutton 1991). Interaction pat- Collective induction refers to the processes by which aterns thought to have been successful in the past should group infers some general principle or rule from con-remain useful for guiding efficient transactive processes crete examples of that principle. The process of col-and helping members retrieve and share task-relevant lective induction involves members observing patterns,knowledge. Having developed a shared conceptualiza- regularities, and relationships across tasks in a domain,tion of interrole knowledge is likely to further reinforce proposing and evaluating hypotheses to account forthese interaction patterns, because the shared concep- those patterns, and eventually converging on the cor-tualizations contain knowledge about the sequence of rect principle or rule that underlies the domain tasksinterdependent activities needed to accomplish a task (Laughlin 1999). Collective induction research shows(Marks et al. 2002). Routinized interactions can be prob- that groups tend to be good at inferring general princi-lematic if groups execute the same patterns in inappro- ples from several examples, in part because groups sharepriate situations and without full deliberation about their a conceptual system of ideas that helps members realizeprobable effects (Gersick and Hackman 1990, Louis when a proposed solution is correct (Laughlin 1999).and Sutton 1991). When different tasks are functionally We propose two reasons that having developed a TMSsimilar, however, the transfer of established interaction in the past will facilitate both analogical encoding andpatterns is not likely to be detrimental. On the con- collective induction. First, a prior TMS is likely to facil-trary, we expect that when members recognize that tasks itate analogical encoding because the interactive cue-share common elements and underlying principles, and ing typical of established TMS processes helps memberswhen they draw on established interaction patterns, they recognize functional similarities across tasks and, in sowill be more likely to retrieve knowledge critical to the doing, prompts members to make comparisons acrossnew task. tasks. Prompting individuals to compare across prob- The above arguments suggest that learning by doing lems is known to improve analogical encoding (Gentnerin Learning Cycle 2 helps members leverage their TMS et al. 2003). Second, prior TMS-learning cycles pro-learning and transfer what they have learned to a new duce shared higher-order information, an abstract formtask context. The effects of prior learning and learn- of knowledge that links each member’s knowledge toing transfer are properly measured by performance on a specific knowledge about the task. When the sametransfer task (cf. Singley and Anderson 1989). Thus, we members experience a second task together, their higher-hypothesize that: order knowledge becomes further elaborated, as mem- Hypothesis 2. Groups that have previously devel- bers form associations between what they and othersoped and utilized a TMS on one task will perform better know and between the initial task and the subsequenton a subsequent, similar task than will groups with no task. These higher-order knowledge structures are theprior TMS. very types of shared conceptualizations that help groups
  7. 7. Lewis et al.: Transactive Memory Systems, Learning, and Learning TransferOrganization Science 16(6), pp. 581–598, © 2005 INFORMS 587collectively induce general principles underlying tasks in the experimenters explicitly assigned responsibility forthe domain (Laughlin 1999). learning in specific areas of expertise. Imposing a new In sum, a prior TMS leverages prior learning, mak- division of cognitive labor on couples that had alreadying it more likely that members encode more abstract developed an implicit TMS structure seemed to impedeknowledge relevant to the domain and more likely that how much information they were able to learn and latermembers recognize when the same general principles recall.apply across different tasks. Therefore, we hypothesize An interesting laboratory study by Baumann (2001)that, given experience on tasks in the same domain: suggests that the impact of a disruption to the TMS structure may depend on the extent of that disrup- Hypothesis 3. Groups with a prior TMS will be more tion. Baumann found that when groups were constructedlikely to demonstrate abstract, generalized knowledge to preserve expertise categories and the distribution ofabout the underlying principles relevant to the domain expertise across task trials, groups whose membershipthan will groups that have never developed a TMS. had changed after developing a TMS were able to quickly learn which members possessed what expertise and con-3. Interference in TMS Learning and struct a new TMS. Because the task as well as the divi- Transfer sion of cognitive labor remained constant across trials,Thus far, our arguments have assumed that group mem- members may have been able to apply some prior TMSbers will have full access to the two components of a learning even though group membership had changed.TMS—a TMS structure and a set of transactive pro- Together, the above studies suggest that significantcesses. We argued that once a group has developed an disruptions to the TMS structure, defined as changesefficient TMS structure and effective TMS processes, that affect location information and redefine the divisionmembers are better able to learn and transfer task- of cognitive labor, are likely to affect members’ learn-relevant information. Suppose instead that a group’s ing and, consequently, learning transfer across tasks. WeTMS structure is relatively inefficient, as might be the note that when the task has also changed, it is likely thatcase when group members do not possess common loca- even minor disruptions to the TMS structure will affect members’ ability to map prior knowledge. Therefore, wetion information. In that case, TMS processes would also hypothesize that:be relatively inefficient. Without a shared understandingof who is responsible for what, new information encoun- Hypothesis 4. Groups that experience a disruptiontered by the group might be encoded by more mem- to an established TMS structure will perform worse on abers than necessary, or might never be encoded (Wegner transfer task than will groups that have never developed1986). Discovering which members possess what exper- a TMS.tise and deciding on the appropriate allocation of new Disruptions to an existing TMS structure are alsoinformation takes time, reducing the efficiency of TMS likely to interfere with members’ higher-order learningencoding processes. Furthermore, until members under- about the task and task domain. Members are less aptstand which members possess what expertise, they will to develop contextualized knowledge about how theirbe less efficient at retrieving information and commu- own knowledge fits with other members’ task-relevantnicating about task elements that had previously been knowledge, because members will no longer be certainorganized as shared higher-order information. Members what knowledge other members actually possess. Fur-must again develop shared higher-order concepts before thermore, because disruptions prevent or delay accessthey can efficiently retrieve and coordinate what mem- to lower-order information, integrations that producebers know. Changes to the TMS structure, if severe shared higher-order information will occur slowly, or notenough, could also cause groups to abandon their habit- at all. Without contextualized knowledge at the individ-ual routines and force members to learn new patterns of ual level, and without shared conceptual knowledge atinteraction (Gersick and Hackman 1990). Disruptions to the group level, members are unlikely to identify andthe TMS structure, then, should interfere with members’ recognize when tasks are functionally similar, and arelearning and learning transfer. unlikely to be able to abstract common principles under- Indeed, TMS research examining TMS encoding and lying the tasks. Therefore, we predict that:retrieval processes demonstrates that, when an existingTMS structure is changed, a prior TMS does interfere Hypothesis 5. Groups that experience a disruptionwith learning and reduces group performance. In a study to an established TMS structure will be less likely tocomparing the encoding and retrieval processes of inti- demonstrate abstract, generalized knowledge about themate couples with those of stranger couples, Wegner underlying principles relevant to the task domain thanet al. (1991) found that intimate couples (who had will groups that have never developed a TMS.presumably already developed an implicit structure for We have argued that TMSs are learning systems thatlearning and recalling information) performed worse produce transferable knowledge, help members recog-than stranger couples on a knowledge recall test when nize the functional similarities and common principles
  8. 8. Lewis et al.: Transactive Memory Systems, Learning, and Learning Transfer588 Organization Science 16(6), pp. 581–598, © 2005 INFORMSacross tasks, and facilitate retrieval and mapping of prior which groups could develop a TMS. Second, the initialknowledge across tasks. We further argued that, given and subsequent tasks had to be different from each otheradditional task experience, groups with a TMS are more in terms of superficial features, and yet be functionallylikely to develop an abstract understanding of the under- similar, such that they had task elements in common andlying principles of the task domain. If a TMS structure such that the strategies used to complete the learningis significantly disrupted, however, having developed a task were appropriate to the other tasks. For prior learn-TMS in the past is expected to reduce members’ learning ing to transfer, members would have to recognize thetransfer and hamper the development of abstract knowl- common features of the tasks and ignore the superficialedge about the task domain. We test our hypotheses differences (Singley and Anderson 1989).in an empirical study that is described next. Our study For the learning task we chose an off-the-shelf elec-examines the key outcomes of our TMS-learning frame- tronics assembly kit—a telephone kit—that is compa-work: (1) whether a TMS developed on one task facil- rable in complexity to electronics-oriented kits used initates learning transfer across tasks; (2) whether a prior past TMS research (e.g., Liang et al. 1995, Moreland andTMS, combined with multiple task experiences, helps Myaskovsky 2000), so we were confident that partici-groups develop abstract, generalized knowledge about pants would be able to develop TMSs on the task. Thethe underlying principles relevant to the task domain; telephone kit was composed of 47 parts, including circuitand (3) the conditions under which having developed a boards, wires, screws, and buttons. We chose anotherTMS in the past hampers, rather than facilitates, learning off-the-shelf electronics assembly kit—a personal stereoand transfer. tape player—for our transfer task. The personal stereo kit was composed of 31 parts, including earphones,4. Methods play/stop buttons, tape guides, circuit board, screws,We tested our hypotheses by conducting a longitudi- wires, and battery connections. We used a third kit—nal experiment in which three-person groups performed an electronic stapler—as the basis for testing whetherelectronic assembly tasks. In a series of three sessions, groups with experience with the learning and transfereach separated by one week, groups were trained on an tasks developed abstract, generalized knowledge aboutassembly task (Week 1), performed that task (Week 2), the underlying principles relevant to the task domain.and then a week later performed a different assembly The electronic stapler kit was composed of 45 parts,task and a knowledge task (Week 3). The participants, including a circuit board, wires, buttons, a small motor,tasks and procedures, design, manipulations, and mea- and screws.sures are described next. To confirm that these three tasks differed superficially but were indeed functionally similar, we analyzed the4.1. Participants tasks using frameworks proposed in the literature (e.g.,Participants were undergraduate students from a large McGrath 1984, Steiner 1972, Wageman 1995). The taskssouthwestern U.S. university who earned extra credit differ in terms of superficial features in two ways. First,toward their course grades by taking part in the study. while the kits have many common parts (e.g., screws,We began with 434 students randomly assigned to con- brackets, circuit boards, and wires), some parts differditions in groups of three. Over the course of the three- across kits. For instance, the telephone assembly has noweek study, 47 participants were lost to attrition and motorized parts, while the personal stereo and stapler87 were excused because a member of their group did have gears and belts that regulate operation. Second, thenot show up to one of the three sessions (if even a sin- tasks differ in terms of what Miller (1973, 1974) calledgle member was absent, the group to which that mem- goal image, or a mental picture of the task’s end state.ber was assigned became unusable). Excused students Participants likely have a different goal image for eachreceived full credit for participating. Three hundred par- of the three products (telephone, personal stereo, andticipants in 100 groups completed the entire study. Attri- stapler) and are consequently likely to have preconcep-tion did not differ across conditions, nor were there tualizations of the tasks that make them seem somewhatany demographic differences among students who were dissimilar (Fleishman and Quaintance 1984).excused, dropped out, or finished the experiment. The In spite of their surface differences, the three tasksfinal sample averaged 21 years of age and was approx- are functionally similar in several ways. First, all threeimately 50% males and 50% females. Of the partici- tasks can be categorized as divisible rather than unitarypants, 59% were Caucasian, 20% were Asian, 8% were (Steiner 1966, 1972), meaning that each task has theHispanic, 5% were African-American, and 8% did not potential to be accomplished through a genuine divisionreport their ethnicity. of labor. Second, all three tasks lend themselves to inter- dependent rather than independent work by group mem-4.2. Tasks and Materials bers (Wageman 1995). Indeed, when we reviewed pretestWe selected tasks for this study with two criteria in videotapes of groups completing the tasks, we observedmind. First, the initial (learning) task had to be one on members working interdependently, rather than working
  9. 9. Lewis et al.: Transactive Memory Systems, Learning, and Learning TransferOrganization Science 16(6), pp. 581–598, © 2005 INFORMS 589in isolation or relying on a single member to apply his full factorial be carried out. We chose this design foror her expertise to accomplish the entire assembly. The three reasons, described next.degree of interdependence needed to successfully com- First, to test the effects of a TMS on transfer andplete the tasks requires the type of interaction that typi- learning, we had to create a TMS in some groups andfies a TMS (Hollingshead 2001). not in others. Comparing these groups on the learning Other functional similarities among the tasks can task would allow us to confirm the effects of Learn-be assessed using McGrath’s (1984) task classifica- ing Cycle 1 (Hypothesis 1), and comparing these groupstion scheme. McGrath organized tasks into six types on later tasks would allow us to test our predictionsalong two dimensions, cooperative versus conflictual, about the extent to which a TMS does or does not facil-and conceptual versus behavioral. All three of our tasks itate learning transfer (Hypotheses 2 and 4) and con-correspond to the intersection of the cooperative and tribute to the development of abstract domain knowledgebehavioral categorizations, and map well onto the two (Hypotheses 3 and 5). We created a TMS with a trainingtasks that McGrath associated with that intersection— manipulation described in Moreland et al. (1996, 1998).planning and performance/psychomotor activities. We trained all members on the learning task in groups of three, expecting that group training would help TMSs Planning. Groups performing each of the three tasks to develop (Moreland 1999), and then we “disabled”might benefit from devising an action-oriented plan for the TMSs of half of the trained groups by reassigningcompleting the assembly of the electronics kit. Assem- members to new groups before they performed the learn-bly planning that applies to all three kits might include ing task. Groups remaining intact after training wouldformulating a rough theory of operation, defining what have full access to their training TMS, while groupssuboperations comprise the whole theory of operation, whose members were reassigned after training wouldidentifying the assembly actions required to achieve sub- no longer have access to elements of the TMS struc-operations, outlining the necessary sequence of actions, ture and processes that were previously associated withconsidering how to organize parts, and planning the other members. This manipulation created two compari-coordination of member actions and interactions. son groups—those with a training TMS and those with- Performance/Psychomotor Activities. All three kits out access to the TMS developed during training (forhave small parts that can be described as fasteners, but- simplicity, we refer to this comparison group as havingtons, circuit boards and wiring, moving parts, or station- “no prior TMS”).ary parts. The assemblies require similar ordered actions, A second reason for our design choice is that we hadsuch as placing and fastening an array of smaller sta- to isolate the effects of the training TMS on learningtionary parts onto larger parts, placing small moving and learning transfer across two subsequent tasks. Thisparts onto larger parts so that they move and interact to meant that we had to control for the possibility thatperform their designed functions, placing and fastening groups might develop a useful TMS while performingparts that secure the moving-parts assemblies, fastening one of the tasks, even if they had not developed a TMSsubassemblies to bases, and snapping and fastening cas- during training (Baumann 2001, Hollingshead 1998).ings. All the kits involve assembly with the use of small To demonstrate that transfer and subsequent learningscrewdrivers and screws. effects were caused by the training TMS, and not by All told, the three tasks have functional similarities task learning or a newly developed TMS, we wouldthat permit us to expect that expertise gained on one task have to control for the confounding effects of task andwill be applicable to the other tasks. At the same time, group experience. Task experience was controlled for bythe task content of the kits differs substantially enough having all groups perform the same tasks, in the sameto allow us to infer whether learning transferred across sequence. Group experience was controlled for by reas-tasks. signing members to new groups before they performed a subsequent task. Reassignment should render any TMS4.3. Design and Manipulations that developed in a prior group less relevant to subse-To determine whether a TMS that developed on the quent task performance (Moreland et al. 1996, 1998),learning task influenced learning transfer and the subse- and keeping membership intact should provide a groupquent development of domain knowledge, we designed with the full advantages of its training TMS. Thus, wean experiment with three tasks (learning task, trans- controlled for group experience on the telephone task byfer task, knowledge task) performed in sequence. Each reassigning half of the members to new groups beforetask was performed by two types of groups, created by they performed the stereo (transfer) task, and we con-either reassigning members to new groups before they trolled for group experience on the stereo task by reas-performed a task, or by keeping members in the same signing half of the members to new groups prior togroups in which they completed the previous task, result- performing the stapler (knowledge) task. Reassignmenting in a 2 × 2 × 2 factorial design. We intended to do enabled us to isolate the effects of having developeda series of planned comparisons, which required that the a prior TMS on learning transfer (Hypothesis 2) and
  10. 10. Lewis et al.: Transactive Memory Systems, Learning, and Learning Transfer590 Organization Science 16(6), pp. 581–598, © 2005 INFORMSon the subsequent development of abstract knowledge participants were only allowed to watch and listen to the(Hypothesis 3). demonstration. The experimenters then directed groups Finally, our design had to allow us to test whether to their separate work areas and issued each group adisruptions to an established TMS structure impeded telephone assembly kit on which to practice for approx-learning transfer (Hypothesis 4) and the development of imately 30 minutes. Members were free to discuss theabstract knowledge (Hypothesis 5). This requirement is task within their own groups and to call the trainer oversatisfied by our 2 × 2 × 2 design because the reassign- to their work area for private questions. At the end ofment manipulation is itself a significant disruption to the practice time the experimenters dismissed the partic-the established TMS structure. Reassigning members to ipants and reminded them to return one week later.new groups effectively disrupts any preexisting cogni- The same participants returned one week later to per-tive division of labor and makes members’ prior location form the learning task (telephone assembly) under timedinformation less relevant for task processing. Reassign- conditions. At the start of this second experimental ses-ment allows us to compare groups that have experienced sion, participants either remained in their training groupsa disruption to a prior TMS structure with those groups or were randomly reassigned to new groups in the man-whose full TMS structure remained intact. Thus, our ner described earlier. The experimenters issued eachlongitudinal 2 × 2 × 2 design: (1) produces a TMS in group an unassembled telephone kit identical to the onesome groups but not others, (2) controls for alterna- they had completed the week before and directed groupstive influences on transfer and learning (i.e., by control- to complete the assembly to the best of their ability in aling for group and task experience) while isolating the maximum of 30 minutes. Upon finishing the group task,effects of TMS learning, and (3) maintains or disrupts each participant completed a questionnaire with itemsa group’s established TMS structure—all of which are about group cohesiveness and motivation (Liang et al.necessary for testing our hypotheses about TMS learning 1995), items measuring the extent to which a trainingand transfer. TMS had indeed developed (Lewis 2003), and a fill- in-the-blank question asking members to describe each4.4. Procedures member’s expertise. Participants were reminded to returnWe conducted each of the three experimental sessions in one week later and were dismissed.a large classroom. The room was equipped with tables In the first part of the third and final session, groupsspaced far enough apart that groups could not see other performed the transfer task (stereo assembly). Partic-groups’ materials or hear their conversations. At the start ipants either remained in their learning-task group orof the experiment, participants were told that the study were randomly assigned to new groups before startingwas being done to investigate how groups work together. the transfer task. The experimenters gave each group aThey were told that there would be three sessions run preassembled personal stereo kit and allowed them onein three consecutive weeks. Participants were not told minute to examine the assembly and components. Par-that some of them would be reassigned to new groups in ticipants were not allowed to disassemble the stereo kitsubsequent sessions because group members who expect or alter the preassembled kit in any way. This was theturnover may decide not to rely on transactive memory. first opportunity that the participants had to examineGroups were randomly assigned to an experimental con- the assembled personal stereo kit. The groups receiveddition, and participants were randomly assigned to their no other training or instruction. After the one-minuteinitial groups by blindly drawing a group number from examination period, the experimenters collected the pre-a hat. In subsequent sessions, the member composition assembled kits, issued each group an unassembled per-of groups in the reassignment conditions was also deter- sonal stereo kit, and instructed each group to assemblemined by random assignment, constrained such that no the kit to the best of their ability in a maximum ofmembers were regrouped with people they had worked 30 minutes. Upon completing the transfer task, partic-with before. ipants were given a questionnaire asking them to once During the first session, groups received training on again describe each member’s expertise (the question-the learning task (telephone assembly). First, partici- naire also included items about task difficulty and grouppants completed a short survey asking for demographic processes that were not analyzed for this study).information and previous experience with electronics The second part of Session 3 was devoted to test-kit assembly. A graduate assistant helping us with the ing the extent to which groups had developed a gen-experiment then performed a 15–20 minute task demon- eralized understanding of the underlying principles ofstration in full view of all of the groups. The trainer the electronics kit assembly domain (abstract knowledgeused a script and a demonstration model to describe the test). To control for the possibility that groups devel-step-by-step procedures for constructing the telephone oped a TMS while performing the transfer task, we onceassembly kit. The script was used to ensure that all par- again reassigned half of the participants to new groupsticipants received identical training instructions. Talk- before asking groups to complete the knowledge test.ing among participants and note taking was prohibited; The abstract knowledge test consisted of examining, but
  11. 11. Lewis et al.: Transactive Memory Systems, Learning, and Learning TransferOrganization Science 16(6), pp. 581–598, © 2005 INFORMS 591not assembling, another electronics kit (electronic sta- problem. Our measure is similar to explanation-basedpler). Experimenters issued each group an assembled measures used in past learning-transfer research to testelectronic stapler and a survey that asked the group to for the development of abstract knowledge (e.g., Gentnerarticulate a strategy for assembling the stapler. To com- et al. 2003). Groups that recognize the ways in whichplete this task well, participants would have to abstract the learning and transfer tasks are functionally simi-the underlying principles common to both of the prior lar should be better able to apply abstract principles oftwo tasks and recognize the general task strategies that the task domain to decompose the new problem andapply to all three tasks. After the surveys were com- plan out a solution for assembling the stapler (Singleypleted, experimenters thanked the participants and then and Anderson 1989). Abstract knowledge scores weredismissed them. To avoid the possibility that participants obtained by rating a group’s response to the questionwho had recently completed the experiment would dis- “What sort of strategy would your group develop andcuss it with classmates who had not yet completed the utilize if you wanted to conduct the assembly of thisthree-session series, we did not immediately debrief par- kit efficiently and accurately? (How would you go aboutticipants about the study hypotheses. Instead, we invited doing it?).” Two of the coauthors, blind to the group’sparticipants to debriefing sessions held at the end of the experimental condition, rated each group’s written strat-semester. A small percentage of the participants (less egy description. We used a five-point scale to rate thethan 5%) ultimately chose to attend these sessions.2 quality of each group’s strategy description. The scale was anchored at 1 = trivial and 5 = integrative, where4.5. Measures “trivial” was interpreted as relating to strategy descrip- tions that entailed the superficial, surface elements of Learning-Task Performance. Performance on the the task—elements that would differ between the sta-learning task (telephone assembly) was measured by pler task and the other two tasks; and “integrative” wasassembly accuracy—the number of assembly opera- interpreted as relating to strategy descriptions that tran-tions done correctly. Similar accuracy-based measures scended the superficial elements and corresponded toof performance have been used in prior TMS research underlying principles relevant to how such problems can(e.g., Liang et al. 1995, Moreland and Myaskovsky be solved. The two raters independently rated the same2000). Distinct operations were defined according to 20 groups and, after determining that interrater reliabilitysteps described in printed instructions included with was high (ICC(2) = 0 98), split up the remaining groupsthe assembly kit. We pretested the telephone assembly and rated them. The average score of the raters was usedusing the printed instructions and confirmed 38 distinct for the first 20 groups. A higher strategy-quality scoreoperations in the telephone task. A trained experi- indicates a greater degree of abstract knowledge thanmenter examined each group’s completed telephone and does a lower score.counted misplaced or misconnected components accord- Control Variables. We controlled for prior expertiseing to these instructions. We deducted one point from with electronics or electronics kits, anticipating thata group’s performance score for each inaccurate opera- members who had experience on tasks similar to thetion, such that higher scores indicate higher learning-task tasks we used in our study would be able to achieveperformance. higher performance. Prior expertise was measured with two items that appeared on the pretraining survey: Learning Transfer Transfer-Task Performance . The “Based on past experience, I would rate my overallextent to which groups transferred learning across tasks knowledge level of electronics as” and “Based on pastwas measured in terms of transfer-task performance— experience, I would rate my skill level with electron-the number of assembly operations done correctly for ics kit assembly as.” Each of those items had a five-the personal stereo assembly kit. Pretests using the point response format, anchored at 1 = beginner and 5 =kit’s printed instructions indicated that there are 34 dis- expert. The interitem correlations r = 0 69 justifiedtinct operations in the personal stereo task. Points were summing the item scores to form a composite. Groupdeducted from a group’s score for each inaccurate oper- scores were computed as the sum of member compos-ation, such that higher scores indicate higher learning ite scores in each group, in each condition. Becausetransfer to the stereo task. each member’s prior expertise is independent of other Abstract Knowledge. We measured the extent to members’ prior expertise, there was no need to checkwhich groups developed an abstract, generalized under- for within-group agreement before summing members’standing of the underlying principles common to the scores. A higher group score indicates a greater level oftasks by asking groups to articulate a strategy for assem- prior expertise in the group than does a lower score.bling a third electronics kit (electronic stapler), a task inthe same domain as the learning and transfer tasks. The 5. Resultsabstract knowledge measure takes into account knowl- We conducted all hypotheses tests at the group leveledge about the task and how the group might solve the using ANOVA and planned contrasts. Initial checks
  12. 12. Lewis et al.: Transactive Memory Systems, Learning, and Learning Transfer592 Organization Science 16(6), pp. 581–598, © 2005 INFORMSshowed that group gender composition (computed as groups had significantly higher mean scores on the TMSpercent of female members) was significantly negatively scale, compared with groups composed of reassignedrelated to prior expertise for each of the tasks and signif- members (M = 55 47 versus M = 53 85), F 1 96 =icantly negatively related to transfer-task performance. 4 06, p < 0 05. We also measured task recall in half ofTherefore, we controlled for gender composition in addi- the sample (34 intact groups, and 32 reassigned groups);tion to controlling for prior expertise in all analyses. recall should be higher in groups with a TMS. The number of task steps recalled was significantly higher5.1. Learning-Transfer Check in intact groups, compared with reassigned groupsSingley and Anderson (1989) recommend checking that (M = 21 53 versus M = 14 83), F 1 62 = 33 03, p <learning transfer is even possible before testing hypothe- 0 001. The bivariate correlation between TMS and recallses about the extent of learning transfer between tasks. N = 66 is 0.28, p < 0 05. These results suggest thatTheir recommended method compares performance for keeping groups intact gave groups full access to the TMSgroups that complete both learning and transfer tasks developed during training, while reassigning groups dis-with the performance of groups that only complete a abled any TMS that had developed. Thus, our manip-transfer task. If the performance of the trained groups ulation for creating a TMS in some groups and not inis higher than that of the untrained groups, transfer others was successful.has occurred from the learning to the transfer task.We tested for learning transfer using a holdout sam- 5.3. Hypothesis Testsple from the same population as our study participants. Figure 2 depicts the experimental design conditions andA total of 93 students in 31 groups comprised the hold- the results from ANOVAs and planned contrasts for allout sample, 16 of whom were trained on the learning hypothesis tests. Hypothesis 1 predicted that relative totask and performed the transfer (stereo) task, and 15 of groups with no prior TMS, groups with a TMS wouldwhom received no training before performing the trans- demonstrate higher performance on the learning task.fer task. The difference between performance means for Performance on the telephone assembly task was indeedthe transfer task was significant, F 1 29 = 20 31, p < higher in groups with full access to their training TMS,0 01 (M = 25 25 for trained groups versus M = 16 66 compared with groups whose training TMS had beenfor untrained groups). Higher transfer-task performance disabled (M = 32 22 versus M = 31 19), and this dif-for groups that received training on the learning task ference is significant, F 1 96 = 3 80, p < 0 05. Thus,relative to those that did not is evidence that transfer Hypothesis 1 is supported.occurred between the learning task and the transfer task. Hypotheses 2 and 4 were tested together, using ANOVA and two planned contrasts. We predicted that5.2. Manipulation Check groups that had developed and utilized a TMS on aWe created a TMS in some groups and not others by previous task would perform better on a transfer taskkeeping half of the participants in their training groups than groups with no prior TMS (Hypothesis 2), and thatand by reassigning the other half of the participants to groups that experienced a disruption to an establishednew groups. We expected that groups remaining intact TMS structure would perform worse on the transfer taskafter training would have full access to their TMS, and than groups that had never developed a TMS (Hypoth-therefore higher TMS scores, than would groups whose esis 4). ANOVA results show no significant differencesmembers had been reassigned. We measured TMSs with among any of the performance means, F 1 94 = 0 35,a 15-item scale developed by Lewis (2003) and com- p = 0 55, providing no support for Hypotheses 2 and 4.puted a TMS composite score for each member by sum- We discuss these findings in more detail below.ming scores on the 15 items = 0 83 . To confirm that Hypotheses 3 and 5 were tested together. We pre-members’ scores could be aggregated to the group level, dicted that experience with two tasks would be morewe evaluated the rwg statistic (George 1990), which mea- likely to produce an abstract, generalized understand-sures the degree to which individual ratings within a ing of the task domain when a group had a prior TMSgroup are interchangeable. Mean rwg values of 0.70 or (Hypothesis 3). If, however, a group experienced a dis-greater provide evidence of acceptable agreement among ruption to an established TMS structure, a prior TMSmember responses on a scale (George 1990). The aver- was expected to interfere with learning and the develop-age rwg on the TMS scale for the learning task was 0.97, ment of abstract knowledge (Hypothesis 5). An ANOVAwith 100% of the rwg values above 0.70. These results with planned contrasts shows that both Hypotheses 3indicate that group member responses on the TMS scale and 5 are supported, F 1 89 = 5 14, p < 0 05. Groupswere quite homogeneous and that aggregating mem- with a training TMS that remained intact demonstratedbers’ scores to the group level of analysis is statistically a better understanding of the underlying principles andjustified. strategies relevant to the task domain, compared with A one-way ANOVA, with gender composition and groups that had never developed a TMS (abstract knowl-prior expertise entered as covariates, shows that intact edge score M = 3 41 versus M = 2 56), t 89 = 2 13,
  13. 13. Lewis et al.: Transactive Memory Systems, Learning, and Learning TransferOrganization Science 16(6), pp. 581–598, © 2005 INFORMS 593Figure 2 Experimental Design and ANOVA Results Training Learning task (telephone) Transfer task (stereo): Knowledge task (stapler) Week 1 Week 2 Week 3, Part 1 Week 3, Part 2 I I Maintain TMS 3.41H3 (0.28) Maintain TMS 22.73H2 (1.00) R 3.28 (0.32) (I) Intact Maintain TMS 32.22H1 (0.37) I 3.33 (0.25) R 23.28H4 (1.06) Disrupt TMS R 1.56H5 (0.31) Disrupt TMS N = 100 groups I I 3.72 (0.36) 23.33 (1.07) R 3.30 (0.29) (R) Reassigned 31.19H1 (0.37) Disrupt TMS I 2.55 (0.41) R 22.65H2,H4 (0.99) Disrupt TMS R 2.56H3,H5 (0.30) Disrupt TMS Sample mean/s.d. 31.70/2.66 22.97/5.05 3.00/1.20Notes. Mean scores are shown for each condition. Standard errors are in parentheses. H1 comparison is significant, F 1 96 = 3 80,p < 0 05. H2 and H4 comparisons are not significant, F 1 94 = 0 35, p = 0 55. H3 and H5 comparisons are significant, F 1 89 = 5 14,p < 0 05, t 89 = 2 13, p < 0 05, and t 89 = −2 31, p < 0 01.p < 0 05, supporting Hypothesis 3. Groups with a train- expertise changed for the transfer task. Given these find-ing TMS that later experienced a disruption to their ings, we decided to create a variable that measuresexisting TMS structure had significantly lower abstract the extent to which perceived expertise remained stableknowledge scores than did groups that had never devel- across tasks and to reexamine Hypotheses 2 and 4, tak-oped a TMS M = 1 56 versus M = 2 56), t 89 = ing this new variable into account.−2 31, p < 0 01. Thus, Hypothesis 5 is supported. Our results show that having developed a TMS not 5.4. Expertise Stability Analysisonly affects performance on the task for which the Members’ consistent recognition of and agreement aboutTMS first developed, but also affects the development of location information in both tasks is evidence thatabstract knowledge about the task domain, given experi- members did indeed maintain specializations acrossence with an additional task. Abstract knowledge facili- the different task contexts. In our surveys, we hadtates mapping of the task principles to other similar tasks asked participants to identify which members had whatbeyond those the group has already completed (Reeves expertise following the completion of the learning andand Weisberg 1994), suggesting that having developed a transfer tasks. Two of the coauthors, blind to theTMS can indeed facilitate learning and learning transfer. conditions, independently coded individual responsesWe also found evidence consistent with our prediction into nine expertise categories: Mechanical/electrical,that a severe disruption to the TMS structure impedes general assembly, small-parts assembly, large-partsabstract, conceptual learning about the task domain. assembly, assembly strategy, recall, general assistance, We did not find evidence, however, of any learning- motivation, and parts management. Raters indepen-transfer effects after groups had experience with only dently categorized each member’s response (Cohen’sone task (Hypotheses 2 and 4). Additional examination kappa = 0 90, p < 0 01), discussed cases where thereof the groups’ TMS structures revealed some explana- was disagreement, and came to a consensus about thetions for these findings. When we examined elements appropriate expertise categorization. The consensus cat-of the TMS structures using members’ statements about egorizations were used as the basis for the expertise sta-“who is expert at what” for each task, we found that bility scores.in more than 20% of the reassigned groups, members’ A measure of expertise stability was derived from theperceived expertise remained stable across tasks, while number of times members agreed about each member’sin nearly half of the intact groups, members’ perceived expertise, both within and between tasks. For example,

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