Knowledge Acquisition via Three Learning Processes in Enterprise Information Portals: Learning-by-Investment, Learning-by-Doing, and Learning-from-Others

Document Type



Published by MIS Quarterly in MIS Quarterly, volume 29 issue 2, 2005. Bryant users may access this article here.


enterprise information portals; learning; activity theory; Knowledge management


MIS Quarterly & The Society for Information Management


An enterprise information portal (EIP) is viewed as a knowledge community. Activity theory provides a framework to study such a community: members of an EIP conduct specific tasks that are assigned through a division of labor. Each member of an enterprise information portal can undergo three distinct types of learning processes: learning-by-investment, learning-by-doing, and learning-from-others. Through these three types of learning processes, each member achieves specialized knowledge that is related to his or her own task. Cumulative knowledge resulting from the learning processes is considered in terms of two distinct attributes: depth and breadth of knowledge. This paper formulates a mathematical model and defines the goal of an EIP member as maximizing the net benefits of knowledge resulting from individual investment and effort. Numerical examples are provided to analyze patterns of optimal investment and effort plans as well as the resulting accumulated knowledge. The results provide useful managerial implications. In business conditions characterized by high interest rates or high internal rate of returns, it is preferable for members to delay spending their resources for learning. Intensive investment and efforts to obtain knowledge are preferable when the discount rate of costs is high, when knowledge is durable, when the value of knowledge is high, when the initial level of knowledge is high, when the productivity of the learning process is high, and when sufficient knowledge is transferred from other members. On the other hand, the size of the EIP has a positive or negative effect depending on the attribute of knowledge and the productivity of teaming processes. Further properties of the optimal decisions and learning processes are analyzed and discussed.