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On the Determinants of Organizational Forgetting


  • Brachet, Tanguy
  • David, Guy


Studies of organizational learning and forgetting identify potential channels through which the firm’s production experience is lost. While the ability to distinguish between these channels has implications for efficient resource allocation within the firm, to date, their relative importance has been ignored. This paper develops a framework for eliciting the contributions of labor turnover and human capital depreciation to organizational forgetting. We apply our framework to a novel dataset of ambulance companies and their workforce. We find evidence of organizational forgetting, which results from sizable skill decay and turnover effects, with the latter having twice the magnitude of the former.

Suggested Citation

  • Brachet, Tanguy & David, Guy, 2009. "On the Determinants of Organizational Forgetting," MPRA Paper 21464, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  • Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:21464

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Rigobon, Roberto & Stoker, Thomas M., 2009. "Bias From Censored Regressors," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 27(3), pages 340-353.
    2. Verbeek, Marno & Nijman, Theo, 1992. "Testing for Selectivity Bias in Panel Data Models," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 33(3), pages 681-703, August.
    3. Peter Thompson, 2001. "How Much Did the Liberty Shipbuilders Learn? New Evidence for an Old Case Study," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 109(1), pages 103-137, February.
    4. Peter Thompson, 2007. "How Much Did the Liberty Shipbuilders Forget?," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 53(6), pages 908-918, June.
    5. David, Guy & Chiang, Arthur J., 2009. "The determinants of public versus private provision of Emergency Medical Services," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 27(2), pages 312-319, March.
    6. Charles D. Bailey, 1989. "Forgetting and the Learning Curve: A Laboratory Study," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 35(3), pages 340-352, March.
    7. Robert S. Huckman & Gary P. Pisano, 2006. "The Firm Specificity of Individual Performance: Evidence from Cardiac Surgery," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 52(4), pages 473-488, April.
    8. Dennis Epple & Linda Argote & Kenneth Murphy, 1996. "An Empirical Investigation of the Microstructure of Knowledge Acquisition and Transfer Through Learning by Doing," Operations Research, INFORMS, vol. 44(1), pages 77-86, February.
    9. Rebecca Achee Thornton & Peter Thompson, 2001. "Learning from Experience and Learning from Others: An Exploration of Learning and Spillovers in Wartime Shipbuilding," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(5), pages 1350-1368, December.
    10. Nijman, T.E. & Verbeek, M.J.C.M., 1992. "Testing for selectivity in panel data models," Other publications TiSEM 7ec34a6c-1d84-4052-971c-d, Tilburg University, School of Economics and Management.
    11. C. Lanier Benkard, 2000. "Learning and Forgetting: The Dynamics of Aircraft Production," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(4), pages 1034-1054, September.
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    Cited by:

    1. Andreas Menzel, 2017. "Knowledge Exchange and Productivity Spill-overs in Bangladeshi Garment Factories," CERGE-EI Working Papers wp607, The Center for Economic Research and Graduate Education - Economics Institute, Prague.
    2. Ortego-Marti, Victor, 2017. "Differences in skill loss during unemployment across industries and occupations," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 161(C), pages 31-33.
    3. Ortego-Marti, Victor, 2017. "Loss of skill during unemployment and TFP differences across countries," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 100(C), pages 215-235.
    4. Serdar Aldatmaz & Paige Ouimet & Edward D Van Wesep, 2014. "The Option To Quit: The Effect Of Employee Stock Options On Turnover," Working Papers 14-06, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
    5. Beneito, Pilar & Rochina-Barrachina, María Engracia & Sanchis, Amparo, 2015. "The path of R&D efficiency over time," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 42(C), pages 57-69.
    6. Hockenberry, Jason M. & Helmchen, Lorens A., 2014. "The nature of surgeon human capital depreciation," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 37(C), pages 70-80.
    7. Carolyn D. Egelman & Dennis Epple & Linda Argote & Erica R.H. Fuchs, 2013. "Learning by Doing in a Multi-Product Manufacturing Environment: Product Variety, Customizations, and Overlapping Product Generations," NBER Working Papers 19674, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Apurba Shee & Spiro E. Stefanou, 2016. "Bounded learning-by-doing and sources of firm level productivity growth in colombian food manufacturing industry," Journal of Productivity Analysis, Springer, vol. 46(2), pages 185-197, December.

    More about this item


    Organizational Forgetting; Labor Turnover; Skill Decay; Learning‐by‐Doing;

    JEL classification:

    • I11 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Analysis of Health Care Markets
    • L23 - Industrial Organization - - Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behavior - - - Organization of Production
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity


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