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Individual Experience and Experience Working Together: Predicting Learning Rates from Knowing Who Knows What and Knowing How to Work Together

  • Ray Reagans


    (Graduate School of Business, Columbia University, New York, New York 10027)

  • Linda Argote


    (Tepper School of Business, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15213)

  • Daria Brooks

    (Northwestern University Hospital and Children's Memorial Hospital, Chicago, Illinois 60614)

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    Learning by doing represents an important mechanism through which organizations prosper. Some firms, however, learn from their experience at a dramatic rate, while other firms exhibit very little learning at all. Three factors have been identified that affect the rate at which firms learn: (a) the proficiency of individual workers, (b) the ability of firm members to leverage knowledge accumulated by others, and (c) the capacity for coordinated activity inside the organization. Each factor varies with a particular kind of experience. An increase in cumulative individual experience increases individual proficiency. An increase in cumulative organizational experience provides individuals with the opportunity to benefit from knowledge accumulated by others. An increase in cumulative experience working together promotes more effective coordination and teamwork. To gain insight into factors responsible for the learning curve, we examine the contribution of each kind of experience to performance, while controlling for the impact of the other two. The study context is a teaching hospital. The task is a total joint replacement procedure, and the performance metric is procedure completion time. We find that each kind of experience makes a distinct contribution to team performance. We discuss the implications of our findings for the learning-by-doing framework in general, and learning in the team context in particular.

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    Article provided by INFORMS in its journal Management Science.

    Volume (Year): 51 (2005)
    Issue (Month): 6 (June)
    Pages: 869-881

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    Handle: RePEc:inm:ormnsc:v:51:y:2005:i:6:p:869-881
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