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Acquisition Capability Development: Behavioral and Cognitive Learning Perspectives.

By M.P.G. Schijven


With worldwide acquisition activity approaching an all-time record of $5 trillion, acquisitions are more than ever at the forefront of scholarly attention and debate. This is all the more so because piles of research have shown that the majority of acquisitions fail to live up to expectations. In theory, it is well established that successful acquisitive growth requires both the identification of target firms with sufficient synergistic potential (strategic fit) and effective integration of these targets into the acquiring firm to realize this potential (organizational fit). In practice, however, this is easier said than done. In order to ensure adequate strategic and organizational fit for their acquisitions, firms need to build capabilities by learning from their own experience as well as that of others. Unfortunately, this learning process is fraught with pitfalls. In strategic settings, including that of acquisitions, experience often appears to be a suboptimal teacher. To date, the literature has merely scratched the surface of the learning-related obstacles that firms face and, most importantly, how they can avoid them. Building on behavioral and cognitive theories, and based on statistical analysis of two distinct large samples, this dissertation presents four interrelated studies that aim to advance our understanding of how acquisition capabilities can be successfully developed.

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