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Downloaded from qshc bmj com on 22 April 2008 Learning from samples of one or fewer J G March L S Sproull and M Tamuz Qual Saf Health Care 2003 12 465 471 doi 10 1136 qhc 12 6 465 Updated information and services can be found at http qshc bmj com cgi content full 12 6 465 These include References Rapid responses Email alerting service Topic collections This article cites 26 articles 1 of which can be accessed free at http qshc bmj com cgi content full 12 6 465 BIBL You can respond to this article at http qshc bmj com cgi eletter submit 12 6 465 Receive free email alerts when new articles cite this article sign up in the box at the top right corner of the article Articles on similar topics can be found in the following collections Quality improvement 595 articles Notes To order reprints of this article go to http journals bmj com cgi reprintform To subscribe to Quality and Safety in Health Care go to http journals bmj com subscriptions Downloaded from qshc bmj com on 22 April 2008 465 CLASSIC PAPER Learning from samples of one or fewer J G March L S Sproull M Tamuz Qual Saf Health Care 2003 12 465 472 Organizations learn from experience Sometimes however history is not generous with experience We explore how organizations convert infrequent events into interpretations of history and how they balance the need to achieve agreement on interpretations with the need to interpret history correctly We ask what methods are used what problems are involved and what improvements might be made Although the methods we observe are not guaranteed to lead to consistent agreement on interpretations valid knowledge improved organizational performance or organizational survival they provide possible insights into the possibilities for and problems of learning from fragments of history O rganizations learn from experience but learning seems problematic when history offers only meager samples of experience Historical events are observed and inferences about historical processes are



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