Intra-Firm Learning from Innovative Activity: The Role of Managers, Work Context and Situated Organizational Attention

37 Pages Posted: 25 Nov 2008 Last revised: 28 Feb 2015

See all articles by Alva Taylor

Alva Taylor

Dartmouth College - Tuck School of Business

Lynn Foster-Johnson

Dartmouth College - Tuck School of Business

Richard A. Harriman

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Date Written: November 24, 2008

Abstract

In this paper we examine the organizational learning that occurs as a result of the innovative activity of new product development. We argue that learning from the new knowledge generated by the innovative activity is influenced by the cognitive context and work conditions in the organization, and can be aided or impeded by factors that affect the attention of individuals in the organization. We use differences in the organizational context - whether the work environment is a knowledge-rich or a knowledge-sparse environment - to show that factors such as manager involvement and perceived competition play an important part in determining whether attention to new knowledge results in greater or lesser learning. We test our hypotheses using empirical data from multiple new product development groups in a multi-division global consumer goods company. Our findings show that the cognitive influences affect the level of learning, and this learning differs based on the contextual situation created by the level of new knowledge. We also show that management oversight at the middle-manager level separates dynamic learning projects from those that are relatively inert. It is proactive middle managers who are able to help an organization acquire new knowledge and renew its innovative resources. These findings have implications for theories of innovation, competition, organizational learning, and managerial decision making.

Keywords: learning, innovation, capabilities, middle management, new product development

JEL Classification: I66, M1, O31, O32, M10, D83

Suggested Citation

Taylor, Alva and Foster-Johnson, Lynn and harriman, richard a., Intra-Firm Learning from Innovative Activity: The Role of Managers, Work Context and Situated Organizational Attention (November 24, 2008). Tuck School of Business Working Paper No. 2008-55, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1306788 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1306788

Alva Taylor (Contact Author)

Dartmouth College - Tuck School of Business ( email )

Hanover, NH 03755
United States
646-3937 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://oracle-www.dartmouth.edu/dart/groucho/tuck_faculty_and_research.faculty_profile?p_id=QQXQ6A

Lynn Foster-Johnson

Dartmouth College - Tuck School of Business ( email )

Hanover, NH 03755
United States
603-646-1945 (Phone)

Richard a. Harriman

affiliation not provided to SSRN ( email )

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