TITLE

LEARNING FROM COMPLEXITY: EFFECTS OF ACCIDENT/INCIDENT HETEROGENEITY ON AIRLINE LEARNING

AUTHOR(S)
Haunschild, Pamela R.; Ni, Bilian
PUB. DATE
August 2000
SOURCE
Academy of Management Proceedings & Membership Directory;2000, pA1
SOURCE TYPE
Conference Proceeding
DOC. TYPE
Article
ABSTRACT
In this study, we investigate the role of experience diversity on learning by U.S. airlines. Do firms learn more from diverse or homogeneous accident experiences? Existing literature provides conflicting answers to this question, with some theories suggesting that heterogeneous experiences are best because variance in outcomes is necessary to learn. Other theories suggest that homogeneity is best for learning, because homogeneous experience increases problem salience and thus attention and attempts to solve the problem. Using data on all accidents and incidents experienced by U.S. commercial airlines from 1983-1997, we measure learning by a reduction in airline accident/incident rates, controlling for many factors related to accidents and incidents. Our results show that whether heterogeneous or homogeneous experience facilitates learning varies according to whether the airline is a specialist or generalist. Only specialists learn from their own heterogeneous accident experience, and prior error heterogeneity decreases their subsequent accident rate. Generalists learn from outside factors such as the experience of others and general improvements in technology. These results suggest a theory of learning across organizational forms: complex forms benefit from simple information, and simple forms benefit from complex. The implications of our study for learning theories and work on organizational errors are discussed.
ACCESSION #
5535235

 

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