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The Effect of Organizational Context on Individual Performance


  • Robert S. Huckman
  • Gary P. Pisano


Several observers have suggested that highly skilled workers convey little in the way of competitive advantage for firms due to their mobility. Implicit in this view is the belief that organizations are not important in determining the performance of such individuals. In this study, we address this issue by examining skilled individuals who work within multiple organizations roughly simultaneously. Specifically, we consider the performance of cardiac surgeons, many of whom perform operations at multiple hospitals during the course of a given year. Using patient mortality as an outcome measure, we find that the quality of a surgeon's performance at a given hospital improves significantly with increases in his or her annual procedure volume at that hospital but does not significantly improve with increases in his or her volume at other hospitals. Our findings suggest that surgeon performance is not fully portable across hospitals (i.e., some portion of performance is firm specific). We consider the implications of our results for settings beyond health care.

Suggested Citation

  • Robert S. Huckman & Gary P. Pisano, 2003. "The Effect of Organizational Context on Individual Performance," NBER Working Papers 10027, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:10027
    Note: HC

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Marcie J. Tyre & Eric von Hippel, 1997. "The Situated Nature of Adaptive Learning in Organizations," Organization Science, INFORMS, vol. 8(1), pages 71-83, February.
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    10. Gary P. Pisano & Richard M.J. Bohmer & Amy C. Edmondson, 2001. "Organizational Differences in Rates of Learning: Evidence from the Adoption of Minimally Invasive Cardiac Surgery," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 47(6), pages 752-768, June.
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    Cited by:

    1. Nicola Lacetera, 2003. "Incentives and spillovers in R&D activities: an agency-theoretic analysis of industry-university relations," Microeconomics 0312004, EconWPA.

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    JEL classification:

    • I1 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health
    • D2 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations

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