Performance Benefits of Reciprocal Vicarious Learning in Teams


Team members’ vicarious learning from other members’ knowledge and experience is a critical component of learning and performance in interdependent team work contexts. Yet, our understanding of vicarious learning among individuals in teams is still quite limited, as this learning is often over-simplified (as one-way knowledge sharing) or aggregated (as a collective, team-level property), resulting in incomplete and inconsistent findings. In this paper, I extend these views by exploring the underlying distribution of dyadic vicarious learning relationships in teams, specifically using a network approach to examine the consequences of reciprocity in team members’ vicarious learning with one another (i.e., where both individuals in a given dyad learn vicariously from each other’s knowledge and experience). Using a novel method for calculating weighted reciprocity in networks in a study of MBA consulting project teams, I demonstrate that greater team vicarious learning reciprocity is associated with greater team performance, and also moderates the performance consequences of teams’ external learning efforts, offering a potential reconciliation of conflicting results in prior research. In doing so, this paper advances research on vicarious learning in teams, while also providing conceptual and empirical tools for studying learning and other interpersonal workplace interactions from a network perspective.

Academy of Management Journal

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