Qual Saf Health Care 12:465-471 doi:10.1136/qhc.12.6.465
  • Classic paper

Learning from samples of one or fewer*

  1. J G March1,
  2. L S Sproull2,
  3. M Tamuz3
  1. 1Stanford University, Stanford, California 94305, USA
  2. 2Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts 02215, USA
  3. 3Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey 08903, USA


      Organizations learn from experience. Sometimes, however, history is not generous with experience. We explore how organizations convert infrequent events into interpretations of history, and how they balance the need to achieve agreement on interpretations with the need to interpret history correctly. We ask what methods are used, what problems are involved, and what improvements might be made. Although the methods we observe are not guaranteed to lead to consistent agreement on interpretations, valid knowledge, improved organizational performance, or organizational survival, they provide possible insights into the possibilities for and problems of learning from fragments of history.


      • * This is a reprint of a paper that appeared in Organization Science, 1991, Volume , pages –13.© 1991, The Institute of Management Sciences (now INFORMS), 901 Elkridge Landing Road, Suite 400, Linthicum, MD 21090, USA.