Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Although learning has been associated with information technology, a theory of how technology, learning and organizational performance are related has never been developed. This dissertation employs a cognitive learning perspective to investigate the impact that executive support systems (ESS) have on organizations by proposing and testing a model of the relationships among these constructs.;The model describes the process by which ESS lead to learning and increased organizational performance. It proposes two types of learning: mental model maintenance in which new information fits into existing mental models and confirms them; and mental model building in which mental models are changed to accommodate new information. The model also proposes that mental model maintenance leads to improvements in efficiency and mental model building leads to effectiveness. Efficiency and effectiveness both lead to improvements in organizational performance.;Finally, the model proposes that information retrieval behaviour determines the type of learning that is possible. When ESS are used to answer specific questions or solve well-defined problems, they help to fine-tune operations and verify assumptions--in other words, they help to maintain mental models. However, ESS may be able to challenge fundamental managerial assumptions and build new mental models if executives scan through them to help formulate problems and foster creativity.;The dissertation comprises three empirical phases: an initial survey administered to 73 executive ESS users in nine companies; seven case studies involving 36 executives; and a second survey of 361 executives in 18 organizations. Rarely, if ever, has such a large group of executives participated in MIS research that relates so directly to their particular information needs. In addition, the interplay between quantitative and qualitative methodologies strengthens the conclusions of both by providing context to understand quantitative results and quantitative results to support qualitative findings.;All three phases provide substantive, statistically significant evidence of the links among information retrieval behaviours, learning, and organizational performance hypothesized by the research model. The results can help organizations understand and evaluate the potential ESS have for improving organizational performance. They can also help them develop systems that are better able to support executive learning.



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