Learning in Inter-organizational Networks: an Individual Perspective

Nada Rejeb (University of Sfax - Tunisia)
Bertrand V. Quelin (HEC Paris - France)

Abstract: This paper emphasizes the role of individuals in explaining firm learning through network. Focusing on firm learning as the extent to which key individuals involved in the alliance learn, we consider learning as the process of acquisition or creation of new knowledge through interactions between individuals. We assume that individual experiences are subsequently converted to organizational properties (physical capital, routines and organizational culture). Thus, we develop and test a model linking the social network theory to the learning theory. We aim to explain the personal relationships as an important determinant of the absorptive capacity of individuals in inter-organisational networks (ION). Our empirical work show that weak and heterogeneous ties between key individuals in an ION are central mechanisms that influence the firm’s ability to capitalize on external information through the ability of individuals to access, assimilate, transform and utilize information (e.g., absorptive capacity). Nevertheless, indirect ties does not show a positive impact on absorptive capacity as it was hypothesised. Our findings add to the literature on the role of individuals in inter-firm learning either on focusing on personal relationships or by stressing his own information processing capabilities.

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