Learning Through Networks: Effects of Partner Experience on Acquisition Premia

By Pamela HaunschildChristine M. Beckman
1998| Working Paper No. 1513

There is a strong emphasis in sociological theory on imitation as a basis of firm action. Firms do what others are doing, and the explanations for this effect tend to center on normative pressures, cultural models, and legitimation of activities. The result is a model whereby firms import the practices of others as is, with little modification. In this study, we will introduce a different theory of action. It is one where organizations learn through statistical sampling processes, where the sample is drawn from network partner experience. Both quantity and diversity of partner experience can improve the basis upon which firms make decisions, and thus, in some situations, firms can make better adoption decisions that their partners. We test our theory using data on acquisition premiums paid from a1986-1993. We find that firms ties to others with diverse premium experience make better decisions (i.e., pay less for their acquisitions) than those tied to others with less diverse experience. Being tied to others with a large quantity of experience also results in better decisions. These results support the validity of our learning model, where network configurations can significantly affect the quality of firm decisions.