Revisiting the Locus of Experience: A Study on Corporate Development Executives, Organizational Learning and M&A Performance

Lisa Tang, Management, The Wharton School

Abstract: In this project, I plan to study the questions of how firms learn and why they fail to learn in the context of post-merger integration. Existing works on mergers and acquisitions (M&A) argue that M&A is an important source of innovation and growth for firms, as it allows them to enter into new geographic markets, join forces with or eliminate competitors, achieve economies of scale and scope, and rapidly obtain novel and innovative technologies (Graebner et al., 2016). Yet, much remain unknown about how these strategic objectives may be achieved. While we know that deliberate learning — the act of codification of knowledge gained in past transactions — is important for organizational performance after the M&A transaction (Zollo & Singh, 2004; Zollo & Winter, 2002), firms’ attempts to learn often fail in practice. Focusing on this important yet understudied phenomenon, I hope to come up with a theoretical framework that can address the questions:

  1. What are the mechanisms and processes that allow firms to learn how to conduct post-merger integration?
  2. Why do their learning attempts often fail despite having codified the lessons learned from prior transactions?
  3. How do these learning patterns differ in cross-border settings, and when the acquirers are from the emerging economies?