Learning-by-Moving: Can Reconfiguring Spatial Proximity Between Organizational Members Promote Individual-level Exploration?
43 Pages Posted: 8 Jan 2018 Last revised: 23 Jan 2019
Date Written: January 20, 2019
This research proposes that individual-level exploration can be promoted by reconfiguring the spatial proximity between organizational members’ workspaces. To test this idea, I exploit a natural experiment in an e-commerce company where the spatial distances between organizational members’ workspaces were reconfigured. Consistent with the theory I develop on learning, results suggest that individuals whose workspaces were moved closer to those of previously separated peers engaged in more individual-level exploration. This pattern was stronger for individuals who had high prior organizational experience and those who did not have ties with previously separated peers. Finally, I found that the relocated individuals also achieved higher financial performance. Overall, this study highlights the importance of an under-examined organization design element—spatial design—and its implications for organizational learning, individual-level exploration, and firm performance.
Keywords: Organization design; organizational learning; organizational spatial design; spatial proximity; seating arrangements; individual-level exploration; microfoundations of strategy; natural experiment
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