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Behind the Learning Curve: A Sketch of the Learning Process


  • Paul S. Adler

    (Industrial Engineering and Engineering Management, Stanford University, Stanford, California 94305-4024)

  • Kim B. Clark

    (Harvard Business School, Soldiers Field, Boston, Massachusetts 02163)


This exploratory paper sketches some of the behavioral processes that give rise to the learning curve. Using data from two manufacturing departments in an electronic equipment company, we construct a model of productivity improvement as a function of cumulative output and two managerial variables---engineering changes and workforce training. Exploration of this model highlights the complex relationship between first-order and second-order learning.

Suggested Citation

  • Paul S. Adler & Kim B. Clark, 1991. "Behind the Learning Curve: A Sketch of the Learning Process," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 37(3), pages 267-281, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:inm:ormnsc:v:37:y:1991:i:3:p:267-281
    DOI: 10.1287/mnsc.37.3.267

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