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Learning in Cycles

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  • Scott F. Rockart

    (Fuqua School of Business, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina 27708;)

  • Kristin Wilson

    (Kenan-Flagler Business School, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina 27599)

Abstract

Organizations face a key challenge in dynamic environments: the contexts in which experience is gained will not always match the contexts in which experience will be applied. This challenge has been investigated largely in terms of progressive environmental change, which increasingly invalidates learning from prior experience. A great deal of environmental dynamism, however, involves cycling through a limited set of environmental conditions that appear and then give way to other conditions, only to later reappear. We argue that cycles create some of the same problems for organizations as progressive change but also provide organizations an opportunity to reapply lessons as the cycle moves from phase to phase. We develop hypotheses about how cycles affect what organizations learn and how cyclical conditions affect how organizations learn. We test the resulting hypotheses in the highly cyclical context of construction lending by community banks using a panel of nearly 40 years of local real estate cycles. The online appendices are available at https://doi.org/10.1287/orsc.2018.1239 .

Suggested Citation

  • Scott F. Rockart & Kristin Wilson, 2019. "Learning in Cycles," Organization Science, INFORMS, vol. 30(1), pages 70-87, February.
  • Handle: RePEc:inm:ororsc:v:30:y:2019:i:1:p:70-87
    DOI: 10.1287/orsc.2018.1239
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