Journal of Management Information Systems

Volume 12 Number 2 1995 pp. 99-130

Executive Support Systems and Learning: A Model and Empirical Test

Vandenbosch, Betty and Higgins, Christopher A

ABSTRACT: A model of the relationships among executive support systems (ESS), learning, and performance is developed. This model describes the impact of ESS on perceptions of competitive performance when viewed from a learning perspective. The model 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 results of a survey of seventy-three executives support the view that the success of ESS may be contingent upon the type of executive learning they engender. The research found that perceptions of competitive performance resulting from ESS use are strongly related to mental-model building, but found no link between competitive performance and mental-model maintenance. Hence, it seems that ESS can and do foster executive learning. Nevertheless, organizations that embark on ESS development on the basis of promised gains in competitive performance should proceed cautiously. The presence of analysis capability seems to be the best differentiation between mental-model maintenance and mental-model building, leading to a consideration of behaviour vis-à-vis the ESS as a predictor of learning. Without mental-model building, competitive performance gains seem unlikely. In addition, companies should be leery of systems that are justified on the basis of improved technical quality.

Key words and phrases: executive support systems, organizational learning