Recent research suggests that managers often make strategic decisions in novel situations by utilizing past experiences to reason by analogy. However, there is substantial evidence that decision makers often fail to identify and apply knowledge about one situation to a similarly structured situation. Two experimental studies investigated the mechanisms impacting knowledge transfer from one managerial situation (the source) to an analogous situation. The results show that exposure to variation in the source situation improves transfer performance. Variation decreases performance in the short term but improves learning and increases analogical transfer. Higher performance on and systematic search of the source situation also increase transfer performance. These results yield important implications for enhancing analogical transfer in strategic decision making and for future research on reasoning by analogy. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.