Wednesday, January 03, 2007

When losing is learning

Odin Zackman passes along the fact of the day from
"A new study suggests that losing an employee, at least in a high-tech field, is not necessarily as bad as it seems. 'Firms can wind up learning when employees leave their firm, which is contrary to the conventional wisdom -- that firms learn by hiring away employees,' says Wharton management professor Lori Rosenkopf. Why? Because, according to Rosenkopf, there are social networks that transcend companies and allow the employees left behind to gain access to the knowledge being generated at their colleague's new place of business."
You can read more here.

It's funny to me how the above study seems to ignore the most fundamental way that losing relates to learning. By invoking "access to knowledge being generated at the colleague's new place of business," the study neatly sidesteps true loss and instead suggests "let's keep in touch." But so many of our most important life lessons come after real loss--it's the most powerful means of learning, in my book. Learning by losing has also been verified through SNA-driven computer simulations, most famously by James G. March's "Exploration and Exploitation in Organizational Learning," published in 1991 and very neatly summarized in nine slides by Steve Borgatti.

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