Network Learning: The Effects of Partner Experience Heterogeneity on Corporate Acquisitions

1999| Working Paper No. 1599

We examine the effects of interorganizational network structures on acquisition premiums. Drawing on several learning and decision-making theories, we propose a model whereby firms learn by sampling the experiences of their network partners. This sample of experience has the potential to be biased, as in the case where firms have insufficient experience diversity in their network. Biased samples will affect the quality of firm decisions. We empirically test this model by examining the effect of network partner experience diversity on firm acquisition decisions. Using data on acquisition premiums and acquirer stock market performance during the 1986-1997 periods, we find that firms tied to others with heterogeneous prior premium experience tend to make better acquisition decisions (e.g. pay less for their acquisitions) than those tied to others with homogeneous experience. Firms that have multiplex relationships with their partners receive even more benefit. The results of this study contribute to our understanding of the effects of information flowing through networks on firm decision quality. We also contribute to institutional theory by providing an alternate model for mimetic firm action - showing that in some cases, firms can improve on the experience of their partners.