Shared learning in supply networks: evidence from an emerging market supply network
Purpose – Firms face the challenge of developing learning capabilities that enable them to work as part of an effective business network. While an extensive literature examines learning capabilities within the firm, little attention has been given to shared learning that occurs between networked firms. This study aims to explore how a manufacturer and businesses services provider learn to develop their supply network. Specifically, this research investigates four areas of shared learning that are central to supply network success, and discusses the development of shared learning capabilities within a supply network. Design/methodology/approach – The paper presents an in-depth, longitudinal case study of a supply network that involves an engineering company and two business services suppliers. Findings – The study suggests that developing shared learning capabilities in four key areas is imperative for network success: business relationships, customers’ desired values, firm boundaries, and network structures. Furthermore, there are three distinct types of shared learning that were common to all four areas of shared learning identified. These are: strategic shared learning, operational shared learning, and exchange shared learning. Research limitations/implications – The research findings are based on a single case study. Additional research across multiple case studies is needed in order to verify the findings reported. Practical implications – The four learning areas have significant managerial implications for the way managers develop mechanisms to capture and share learning associated with developing supply networks. Originality/value – This research addresses a gap in the literature concerning the areas of learning capabilities for developing a supply network. The findings are important to research and practice with regard to how companies develop learning capabilities.