Does Experience Imply Learning?

Charlotte Ren, Fox School of Business; Louis Mulotte, Management, Tilburg University; and Jaideep Anand, Ohio State

Strategic Management Journal, 2015

Abstract: Research traditionally uses experiential learning arguments to explain the existence of a positive relationship between repetition of an activity and performance. We propose an additional interpretation of this relationship in the context of discrete corporate development activities. We argue that firms choose to repeat successful activities, thereby accumulating high experience with them. Data on 437 aircraft projects introduced through three governance modes show that the positive performance effect of the firm’s experience with the focal mode becomes insignificant after accounting for experience endogeneity. We suggest that in a general case, experience with corporate development activities may be tinged with both learning and selection effects. Therefore, omitting to account for experience endogeneity may lead to incorrect conclusions from an “empirically observed” positive experience–performance relationship.

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