Ignorance Isn’t Bliss: Complaint Experience and Organizational Learning in the California Nursing Home Industry, 1997–2004

Vinit M. Desai
British Journal of Management,  Dec. 2010, Vol. 21 Issue 4, pp. 829-842.

Organizational learning theory suggests that complaints about products and services can promote organizational learning and change. However, evidence suggests that potentially valuable forms of experience may be ignored or discounted in organizations, and additional research is needed to determine why this happens. This study contributes to those efforts by examining how multiple forms of complaint experience interactively influence organizational outcomes. An empirical test on a longitudinal panel of Californian nursing homes finds that complaints about other issues may distract attention away from complaints about a focal issue, but only when complaints are provided anonymously. These findings forward organizational learning theories by suggesting that multiple types of experience may detract from rather than supplement each other in some cases. Additional implications and opportunities for further research are also discussed.