Monday, July 9, 2012

Auto Learning-by-Doing is Embodied in the Managers

While on my European excursion to multiple conferences (read junket), I was able to see Chad Syverson present his research coauthored with Steve Levitt and John List called, "Toward an Understanding of Learning by Doing: Evidence from an Automobile Assembly Plant." It seems that as a production line is setup for a new car model, there are substantial increases in productivity (2-3 fold) up to a point, at whch point it plateaus. But when a new model trim or work shift (usually a swing shift) is added, the productivity does not jump back to that of the initial model/trim or shift. And when problems are detected for one trim or shift, they are mostly fixed for all. This suggests that the learning-by-doing is not "embodied" in the workers but instead resides in the management practices. It is the job of managers to make sure that knowledge gained in one place is applied wherever it is useful.

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