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Information Sharing, Social Norms and Performance

51 Pages Posted: 23 Jul 2011 Last revised: 5 Sep 2013

Marco Di Maggio

Harvard Business School; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Marshall W. Van Alstyne

Boston University – Questrom School of Business; Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Sloan School

Date Written: July 9, 2013


What drives workers to seek information from their peers? And how does communication affect employee performance? Answers have proven elusive due to problems obtaining precise measures of white collar output and of observing the information individuals consume. We address these questions using an original panel data set that includes all accesses to an information-sharing platform, together with performance measures of all loan officers at a major Japanese bank. This paper makes three contributions. First, we show that skill level differences, job rotation, and differences among branches each affect the demand for information. There also exists substitution between an agent's ability and the amount of information consumed. Low skill agents benefit the most from consuming others' information. Second, restricting attention to officers who switched branches, we show that they perform on average significantly worse than before the switch, suggesting that job rotation destroys specialized human capital. We also find that an officer who shares information increases his chances of promotion rather than competes for promotion less effectively. Third, we measure the size of productivity gains based on consuming shared information. After controlling for unobserved heterogeneity over time, between branches, and among officers, a standard deviation increase in information access increases performance by roughly ten percent. By instrumenting the demand for information with the exogenous variation arising from cultural differences among branches, we are able to assess the causal effect of communication on performance.

Keywords: learning effect, information sharing, productivity, communication

JEL Classification: D83, G21, J24, L25, M5, D73

Suggested Citation

Di Maggio, Marco and Van Alstyne, Marshall W., Information Sharing, Social Norms and Performance (July 9, 2013). Available at SSRN: or

Marco Di Maggio (Contact Author)

Harvard Business School ( email )

Boston, MA 02163
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Marshall Van Alstyne

Boston University – Questrom School of Business ( email )

595 Commonwealth Avenue
Boston, MA 02215
United States
617-358-3571 (Phone)


Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Sloan School ( email )

Center for Digital Business
5 Cambridge Center - NE25, 7th Floor
Cambridge, MA 02142
United States
617-253-0768 (Phone)


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