Learning & outsourcing

The ongoing fragmentation of work has resulted in a narrowing of tasks into smaller and smaller pieces that can be sent outside the organisation and, in many instances, around the world.

Not surprisingly, this trend is shifting the boundaries of organisations. Though experience and productivity improvement may be seen as key benefits of this trend, little is known about how this shift toward outsourcing influences learning. When producing aunit of output, the content of the knowledge can vary dramatically from one unit to the next.

One dimension along which a unit can vary — a dimension with particular relevance in outsourcing — is the end customer to whom it is delivered. The performance benefits of such customer experience remain largely unexamined... Why might customer experience be an important determinant of learning in service contexts? Due to the interdependent nature of services, the customer and outsourced provider must interact to "co-produce" service output.

By repeatedly interacting with a customer, an individual may learn her standard operating procedures, improve her communication and mutual adaptation with the customer, and learn or transfer new knowledge from the customer... In addition to examining customer learning at the individual level, it is necessary to remember that learning can occur at the level of either the individual or organisation.


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