Learning How and Learning What: Effects of Tacit and Codified Knowledge on Performance Improvement Following Technology Adoption



This paper examines effects of tacit and codified knowledge on performance improvement as organizations gain experience with a new technology. We draw from knowledge management and learning curve research to predict improvement rate heterogeneity across organizations. We first note that the same technology can present opportunities for improvement along more than one dimension, such as efficiency and breadth of use. We compare improvement for two dimensions: one in which the acquisition of codified knowledge leads to improvement and another in which improvement requires tacit knowledge. We hypothesize that improvement rates across organizations will be more heterogeneous for dimensions of performance that rely on tacit knowledge than for those that rely on codified knowledge (H1), and that group membership stability predicts improvement rates for dimensions relying on tacit knowledge (H2). We further hypothesize that when performance relies on codified knowledge, later adopters should improve more quickly than earlier adopters (H3). All three hypotheses are supported in a study of 15 hospitals learning to use a new surgical technology. Implications for theory and practice are discussed.