Learning processes features and technological capability-accumulation: explaining inter-firm differences

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The focus of this paper is how the key features of the underlying learning processes influence inter-firm differences in paths of technological capability-accumulation in the late-industrialising context. This relationship is examined in two of the largest steel firms in Brazil over their lifetime of 40 and 60 years. The issues of 'technological capability' and 'learning processes' have been addressed in two bodies of literature over the past two decades: the Latecomer Company Literature (LCL) and the Technological Frontier Company Literature (TFCL). However, the problem of how learning processes influence inter-firm differences in technological capability accumulation paths, particularly within the late-industrialising companies, has been quite scarce in both bodies of literature. The framework for learning identifies four processes: external and internal knowledge-acquisition, knowledge-socialisation and knowledge-codification. These processes are examined on the basis of four features: variety, intensity, functioning, and interaction. The study has found that the paths of technological capability accumulation followed by the two case-study companies were diverse and have proceeded at differing rates over time across different technological functions. These differences were strongly associated with the four features of the learning processes. The study suggests that the rates of technological capability accumulation can be accelerated if deliberate and effective efforts on knowledge-acquisition and knowledge-conversion processes are made within the company. (C) 2002 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.

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