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5. Vicarious / Social Learning (Christine Beckman)

Updated: Aug 24, 2023

By Christine Beckman, USC

Prerecorded Session

Live Session

Required readings

Beckman, C. M., & Haunschild, P. R. (2002). Network learning: The effects of partners' heterogeneity of experience on corporate acquisitions. Administrative science quarterly, 47(1), 92-124.

Clough, D. R., & Piezunka, H. (2020). Tie dissolution in market networks: A theory of vicarious performance feedback. Administrative Science Quarterly, 65(4), 972-1017.

Maslach, D., Branzei, O., Rerup, C., & Zbaracki, M. J. (2018). Noise as signal in learning from rare events. Organization Science, 29(2), 225-246.

Beckman, Christine M. and Hyeun Lee. (2020). “Social Comparison and Learning from Others.” In L. Argote and J. Levine (Eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Group and Organizational Learning. Oxford University Press, p. 337-351.

Myers CG (2021) Performance benefits of reciprocal vicarious learning in teams. Academy of Management Journal 64(3): 926-947.

Rerup, C., & Zbaracki, M. J. (2021). The politics of learning from rare events. Organization Science, 32(6), 1391-1414

Optional readings

(optional) Powell, W. W., Koput, K. W., & Smith-Doerr, L. (1996). Interorganizational collaboration and the locus of innovation: Networks of learning in biotechnology. Administrative science quarterly, 116-145.

(optional) Madsen, P. M., & Desai, V. (2018). No firm is an island: The role of population-level actors in organizational learning from failure. Organization Science, 29(4), 739-753.

(optional) Fang, T. P., Wu, A., & Clough, D. R. (2021). Platform diffusion at temporary gatherings: Social coordination and ecosystem emergence. Strategic Management Journal, 42(2), 233-272.

(optional) Moliterno, T. P., Beck, N., Beckman, C. M., & Meyer, M. (2014). Knowing your place: social performance feedback in good times and bad times. Organization Science

Longer optional reading

Baum J., Li S. X., Usher J. M. 2000. Making the next move: How experiential and vicarious learning shape the locations of chains' acquisition. Administrative Science Quarterly, 45: 766–801.

Cohen, S. L., Bingham, C. B., & Hallen, B. L. (2019). The role of accelerator designs in mitigating bounded rationality in new ventures. Administrative Science Quarterly, 64(4), 810-854.

Haunschild P. R., Miner A. S. 1997. Modes of interorganizational imitation: The effects of outcome salience and uncertainty. Administrative Science Quarterly, 42: 472–500

Hsu, G., Kovács, B., & Koçak, Ö. (2019). Experientially diverse customers and organizational adaptation in changing demand landscapes: A study of US cannabis markets, 2014–2016. Strategic Management Journal, 40(13), 2214-2241.

Kim, J. Y., & Miner, A. S. (2007). Vicarious learning from the failures and near-failures of others: Evidence from the US commercial banking industry. Academy of Management Journal, 50(3), 687-714.

Kolympiris C, Hoenen S, Klein PG (2019) Learning by seconding: Evidence from national science foundation rotators. Organization Science 30(3): 528-551.

Koo, W. W., & Eesley, C. E. (2021). Platform governance and the rural–urban divide: Sellers' responses to design change. Strategic Management Journal, 42(5), 941-967.

Lamberg JA, Luoma J (2021) Ideology in vicarious learning-related communication. Organization Science 32(3): 708-730.

Levinthal D., March J. G. 1993. The myopia of learning. Strategic Management Journal, 14: 95–112

Madsen, P. M., & Desai, V. (2010). Failing to learn? The effects of failure and success on organizational learning in the global orbital launch vehicle industry. Academy of management journal, 53(3), 451-476.

Myers CG (2018) Coactive vicarious learning: Toward a relational theory of vicarious learning in organizations. Academy of Management Review 43(4): 610-634.

Piezunka, H., Aggarwal, V. A., & Posen, H. E. (2021). The Aggregation–Learning Trade-off. Organization Science.

Riedl, C., & Seidel, V. P. (2018). Learning from mixed signals in online innovation communities. Organization Science, 29(6), 1010-1032.

Srinivasan R., Haunschild P., Grewal R. 2007. Vicarious learning in new product introductions in the early years of a converging market. Management Science, 53: 16–29

Terlaak, A., & Gong, Y. (2008). Vicarious learning and inferential accuracy in adoption processes. Academy of Management Review, 33(4), 846-868.

Uzzi, B., & Lancaster, R. (2003). Relational embeddedness and learning: The case of bank loan managers and their clients. Management science, 49(4), 383-399.

Discussion questions

  1. Learning from others has been described using a variety of terms: vicarious learning, learning from others, population learning, social learning, imitation, social or vicarious performance feedback, network learning. Given the multiplicity of terms, it is difficult to accumulate knowledge across these bodies of work. What do we learn from these different conceptualizations and how do we put this together in a meaningful way?

  2. Following on this, the literature on learning from others has been examined at the individual level, the interorganizational level, and the population level. There are challenges for theorizing across these levels of analysis that are often ignored in the literature. This suggests cross-level fallacies are likely. This is not a challenge unique to the learning literature, but what does that look like in this literature and what does that acknowledgment mean about research questions we should be asking?

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