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.
- organizational learning
- learning from experience
- small samples
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↵* 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.
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