Published Online:https://doi.org/10.5465/amd.2018.0217

In this article, we explore how perceptions of other people’s exceptional success influence individuals’ motivation to learn—a relationship that has been surprisingly unexplored within the broad literature on learning in organizations. Our research reveals, across two distinct samples and methodologies, that an individual’s motivation to learn is higher when they perceive performance by another person to be more exceptionally successful, as compared to perceiving the other’s performance as a more “normal” success. We also observe, in line with prior research, marginal support for the notion that motivation to learn is higher when individuals perceive others’ performance as more of a failure; thereby suggesting a curvilinear relationship between perceived performance and motivation to learn. Our second study demonstrates that the relationship between others’ performance and the motivation to learn is mediated by interest and moderated by surprise. We discuss the implications of these results for provoking new theorizing, measurement, and practical implementation of learning in organizations.

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