Learning curve? Which one?

Main Article Content

Paulo Prochno


Learning curves have been studied for a long time. These studies provided strong support to the hypothesis that, as organizations produce more of a product, unit costs of production decrease at a decreasing rate (see Argote, 1999 for a comprehensive review of learning curve studies). But the organizational mechanisms that lead to these results are still underexplored. We know some drivers of learning curves (ADLER; CLARK, 1991; LAPRE et al., 2000), but we still lack a more detailed view of the organizational processes behind those curves. Through an ethnographic study, I bring a comprehensive account of the first year of operations of a new automotive plant, describing what was taking place on in the assembly area during the most relevant shifts of the learning curve. The emphasis is then on how learning occurs in that setting. My analysis suggests that the overall learning curve is in fact the result of an integration process that puts together several individual ongoing learning curves in different areas throughout the organization. In the end, I propose a model to understand the evolution of these learning processes and their supporting organizational mechanisms.


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How to Cite
Prochno, P. (1). Learning curve? Which one?. Journal of Contemporary Administration, 9(spe1), 159-176. https://doi.org/10.1590/S1415-65552005000500008
Author Biography

Paulo Prochno, Insead

Ph.D. em administração de empresas pelo Insead, França. Professor de gerenciamento estratégico da Fundação Dom Cabral. Suas áreas de interesse em pesquisa são transferência de conhecimento, rotinas organizacionais, métodos qualitativos de pesquisa e teoria organizacional.