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Adaptive Coordination of a Learning Team


  • Pertti H. Lounamaa

    (Nokia Electronics)

  • James G. March

    (Graduate School of Business, Stanford University, Stanford, California 94305-5015)


Contemporary research on organizations has cast doubt on the extent to which organizations can be expected to adapt to their environments through rational, anticipatory action. Incremental experiential learning has been suggested as an alternative form of organizational intelligence, less demanding cognitively yet capable of considerable power. This paper examines such learning in the context of a model of a team involving two learning members, each of whom modifies beliefs about the other on the basis of experience, and an adaptive coordinator who adjusts a coordination control variable. It is shown that although learning is a powerful mechanism for improving organizational performance, it can often be confounded by the effects of attributional biases on the part of members, by the interactions of simultaneous learning by the members and the coordinator, and by errors in perceiving or interpreting experience. These complications lead to consideration of possible heuristics to overcome such learning liabilities. It is suggested that the effectiveness of incremental learning can often be improved by slowing the rate of learning and adaptation, by reducing the simultaneity of behavioral changes, and by scaling the size of the changes.

Suggested Citation

  • Pertti H. Lounamaa & James G. March, 1987. "Adaptive Coordination of a Learning Team," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 33(1), pages 107-123, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:inm:ormnsc:v:33:y:1987:i:1:p:107-123
    DOI: 10.1287/mnsc.33.1.107

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