Academy of Management Review, Published Online Ahead-of-Print. Paper Paper Google scholar Altmetric Plumx doi abstract bibtex
Vicarious learning – individual learning that occurs through being exposed to, and making meaning of, another’s experience – has long been recognized as a driver of individual, team, and organizational success. Yet existing perspectives on this critical learning process have remained fairly limited, often casting vicarious learning as simply an intrapersonal, one-way process of observation and imitation. Largely absent in prior perspectives is a consideration of the relational dynamics and underlying behaviors by which individuals learn vicariously through interacting with others – rendering these perspectives less useful for understanding learning in the increasingly interconnected work of modern organizations. Integrating theories of experiential learning and symbolic interactionism, I offer a theoretical model of coactive vicarious learning, a relational process of co-constructed, interpersonal learning that occurs through discursive interactions between individuals at work. I explore how these interactions involve the mutual processing of another’s experience; are influenced by characteristics of the individual, relational, and structural context in organizations; and lead to growth not only in individuals’ knowledge, but also in their individual and relational capacity for learning and applying knowledge. I close by discussing the implications of this conceptual model for the understanding and practice of vicarious learning in organizations.