Developing effective customer solutions. An associative learning perspective.


  • Giovanna Padula Università Bocconi



customer solutions; relational exchanges; associative learning; business-to-business marketing.


Purpose of the paper: Contribute to the understanding of the factors affecting the development of effective solutions.

Methodology: Starting from the premise that the development of customer solutions entails a high, though varying, degree of learning, this paper builds on the cognitive and behavioral science to suggest two pre-conditions of effective learning, then discusses some organizational practices that shape the solution development context in a way that mirrors the two pre-conditions of effective learning and, by this way, guarantees more effective solution development.

Findings: Building on the cognitive and behavioral science, this paper suggests that effective learning takes place through ‘association across related knowledge’ and pinpoints two pre-conditions for effective learning: prior knowledge and strength of association. It then suggests some organizational practices that could generate these pre-conditions within a solution development context, enabling the achievement of effective solutions: informal narratives and story-telling sharing, contingent-hierarchy, multiple-expertise teams, social ties, co-location of assets and co-creation of ‘boundary objects’.

Research limits: Since the literature on customer solution is an emerging, though steadily body of research, extensive empirical investigations are necessary to develop a more systematic understanding on the conditions affecting the development of effective customer solutions.

Practical implications: This paper suggests several organizational practices that could be employed within a solution development context which would lead to effective customer solutions.

Originality of the paper: This paper contributes to research by employing for the first time an ‘associative learning perspective’ in the understanding of the conditions affecting the development of effective solutions.


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