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Payoffs and pitfalls of strategic learning


  • Starbuck, William H.
  • Barnett, Michael L.
  • Baumard, Philippe


Managers and management researchers tend to assume that learning from strategic events yields benefits. Although some firms have gained competitive advantages from learning, instances are infrequent, and firms that have gained persistent advantages through learning are probably quite unusual. Learning from successes has short-run benefits but eventually makes firms less capable of surviving, whereas learning from failures disappears in clouds of rationalization and defensive behavior. Noisy feedback about results causes people to develop very heterogeneous and often highly erroneous perceptions of firms and their environments, so it should not be surprising that strategizing is harmful as often as it is helpful.

Suggested Citation

  • Starbuck, William H. & Barnett, Michael L. & Baumard, Philippe, 2008. "Payoffs and pitfalls of strategic learning," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 66(1), pages 7-21, April.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jeborg:v:66:y:2008:i:1:p:7-21

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Michael L. Barnett & William H. Starbuck & P. Narayan Pant, 2003. "Which dreams come true? Endogeneity, industry structure and forecasting accuracy," Industrial and Corporate Change, Oxford University Press, vol. 12(4), pages 653-672, August.
    2. Armen A. Alchian, 1950. "Uncertainty, Evolution, and Economic Theory," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 58, pages 211-211.
    3. Michael L. Barnett, 2006. "Finding a Working Balance Between Competitive and Communal Strategies," Journal of Management Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 43(8), pages 1753-1773, December.
    4. Eric J. Walton, 2001. "Managers' Perceptions of Criteria of Organizational Effectiveness," Journal of Management Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 38(2), pages 173-200, March.
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    Cited by:

    1. Philippe Baumard,, 2008. "Learning Strategies in Coopetitive Environments," Post-Print hal-00403576, HAL.
    2. Thorsten Grohsjean & Tobias Kretschmer & Nils Stieglitz, 2011. "Performance Feedback, Firm Resources, and Strategic Change," DRUID Working Papers 11-02, DRUID, Copenhagen Business School, Department of Industrial Economics and Strategy/Aalborg University, Department of Business Studies.

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