UCL School of Management is delighted to welcome Nilanjana Dutt, Bocconi Uni, to host a research seminar discussing ‘The Locus of Learning & Operational Performance: Evidence from U.S. Manufacturing’
This paper explores the extent to which learning that occurs at multiple levels within the organization is beneficial for performance. We propose that organizations can learn in two ways: first, by executing routine activities to accrue operational experience; second, by implementing practices to improve the organization of operational activities to gain managerial experience. While each experience is likely to independently raise performance, we consider to what extent both experiences jointly improve operational performance. Results suggest that the scope of the operational experience is a contingency: while learning from operational experience of higher scope is unaffected, learning from managerial experience is less effective at higher scope. However, this detrimental effect of scope is moderated for facilities with the highest levels of operational experience. We examine test these questions using the context of U.S. manufacturing facilities reducing their toxic waste output from 1991 to 2014. These results highlight the importance of scope in determining whether learning investments at multiple levels are beneficial to operational performance.