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Variation in Experience and Team Familiarity: Addressing the Knowledge Acquisition-Application Problem


  • Robert S. Huckman

    () (Harvard Business School, Technology and Operations Management Unit)

  • Bradley R. Staats

    () (Harvard Business School)


Prior work in organizational learning has failed to find a consistent effect of variation in experience on performance. While some studies find a positive relationship between these two variables, others find no effect or even a negative relationship. In this paper, we suggest that the differences in prior findings may be due to the failure to separate the processes of knowledge acquisition and knowledge application. While variation in experience may permit the acquisition of valuable knowledge, additional mechanisms may be necessary to enable the subsequent application of that knowledge in a team setting. We hypothesize that team familiarity - prior experience working with team members - may be such a mechanism. We use detailed project- and individual-level data from an Indian software services firm to examine the effects of team familiarity and variation in market experience on multiple measures of performance for over 1,100 software development projects Consistent with prior work, we find mixed results for the effect of variation in experience on performance. We do, however, see evidence of a moderating effect of team familiarity on the relationship between these two variables. Our paper identifies one mechanism for uniting knowledge acquisition and knowledge application and provides insight into how the management of experience accumulation affects the development of organizational capabilities.

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  • Robert S. Huckman & Bradley R. Staats, 2008. "Variation in Experience and Team Familiarity: Addressing the Knowledge Acquisition-Application Problem," Harvard Business School Working Papers 09-035, Harvard Business School.
  • Handle: RePEc:hbs:wpaper:09-035

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    Experience; Knowledge; Software; Team Familiarity; Variation;

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