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«Researchers have endeavored to increase understanding of the relationships between investments in information systems (IS), competitive advantage, ...»

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Aggregate Cognitive Maps. In 1993, Weick and Roberts presented a tale where ―a million accidents wait to happen but almost never do…‖ (p. 357). They explained the phenomenal safety record of U.S. aircraft carriers through a theory built around the idea of aggregate mental processes, or the collective mind. Weick and Roberts suggest that managers in organizations that are concerned not simply with efficiency of organizational

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developed, collective mental processes.

As competitive actions are at the firm level, groups of managers need information and knowledge in order to attain firm-level awareness of the opportunities and threats competitive environment, firm-level consciousness of motivations to act or respond, and firm-level identification of firm resources that provide capability to engage in competitive dynamics. West (2007) emphasizes the importance of examining cognition at the aggregate level where decisions rely upon a collaborative process. Thus, in the context of this dissertation, it can be assumed that while individual managers are unique in their own areas of expertise, knowledge and access to information, managerial collectives engaged in various stages of the competitive dynamics process assume some level of synergy in their cognitive structures. In other words, managers develop a collective mind to make firm-level sense of the competitive landscape (Weick & Roberts, 1993). This aggregated cognitive schema can bring collective attention to what competitive action to pursue and how and when to go about pursuing it. It is through this firm-level interpretation of events that competitive opportunities are eventually realized and positively affect firm performance, and conversely, competitive threats are recognized before firm performance can be negatively impacted.

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Cognitive maps are graphic representations that locate people in relation to their information environments. Maps provide a frame of reference for what is known and believed. They highlight some information and fail to include other information, either because it is deemed less important, or because it is not known. They exhibit the reasoning behind purposeful actions. (p. 267) Langfield-Smith (1992) suggests ―a collective cognitive map‖ be used ―to obtain and map the group's shared perceptions about a particular domain‖ (p. 349). Bougon (1992) suggests that aggregate cognitive maps can be seen as the merger of ideas and concepts from a group of individuals. However, traditional methods of constructing aggregate cognitive maps may reflect the researchers‘ assumptions about ―similarity of meaning‖ and may raise questions about whether concepts ―ought to have been linked‖ (Bougon, 1992, p. 371). Thus, Centering Resonance Analysis (CRA) has been used in this dissertation to formulate an objective account of the concepts and the relationships among them that managers identify as central to each stage of the competitive dynamics process - Conceiving, Enacting, Executing, and Firm Performance. Crawdad 1.2 Text Analysis System has been used to perform qualitative data analysis and text mining and present the analysis as a network of interconnected concepts. The following section provides an overview of the steps taken to construct aggregate cognitive maps using centering resonance analysis (CRA).

Aggregate cognitive maps were created using data from semi-structured managerial interviews. Transcribed interviews were searched for sentences relevant to each stage of the competitive dynamics process identified in Study I: Conceiving,

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text files representing each stage. Centering Resonance Analysis (CRA) software, Crawdad 1.2 Text Analysis System, was used to generate CRA files from each text file which were used to identify concepts and create CRA networks (concept networks) based upon each concept‘s level of influence in the text and their relationships with other concepts in the text (Corman et al., 2002).

Once text has been entered into the Crawdad 1.2 Text Analysis System software,

Brandes and Corman (2003, p. 41) describe the CRA process as follows:

1. The text is split into individual sentences.

2. For each sentence, noun phrases are identified using linguistic analysis.

3. A vertex is introduced for every noun or adjective in a noun phrase.

4. An edge is introduced between every pair of vertices corresponding to words that occur in the same noun phrase, or are consecutive in the same sentence.

Put another way, small networks are constructed for each sentence, where words are considered linked if they co-occur inside noun phrases or occur on adjacent ends of consecutive noun phrases within that sentence. These networks are merged over all the sentences in the text. The method thus yields a network of words comprising the subjects and objects of the text and how these are related to one another, and hence a representation of the text‘s structure.

CRA measures influence similar to the way in which betweenness is measured using SNA techniques, discussed earlier in the section on managerial social networks, or

how often a word serves as a bridge between other words:

Betweenness centrality therefore best represents the extent to which a particular centering word (represented by a network node) mediates chains of association in the CRA network. (Corman et al., 2002, p. 177)

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mediates meaning (McPhee et al., 2002).

A detailed discussion and images of the four aggregate cognitive maps constructed through CRA are presented in chapter eight, the Discussion of Findings and Research Implications later in this dissertation.

Validation of Centering Resonance Analysis. Validation of centering resonance analysis was conducted by employing an objective ―outsider‖ to review the data selected for creating the CRA maps. To corroborate the findings, a second, objective researcher reviewed each stage of the data analysis. Ideally, a second researcher who has not been exposed to the direct, subjective, inside experiences is desirable (although seldom employed). This outside researcher takes on the role of a more detached investigator who analyzes the data ‗objectively‘ (Gioa & Chittipeddi, 1991). This study was rigorously validated through the employment of both an ‗insider‘ and an ‗outsider‘ researcher (Evered & Louis, 1981), where the inside researcher was a bona fide participant who conducted the interviews, and an outside, objective researcher was consulted to ensure that the software-based objective analysis was conducted correctly and that proper procedure as outlined in the literature has been correctly followed. Secondly, one manager participating in the study was asked to review each CRA map to provide his view with regard to the legitimacy of the findings.

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The findings of Study II extend the sociology and management bodies of literature (Borgatti & Cross, 2003; Granovetter, 1973; Uzzi, 1996) which suggest that economic action is embedded in networks of social relations. This perspective is extended by finding a significant and embedded role of social computing and communications technologies in the context of economic action and networks of social relations.

The findings are rooted in the Awareness-Motivation-Capability (A-M-C) perspective which defines the three essential factors underlying organizational competitive action: awareness, motivation, and capability (Chen, 1996; Chen et al., 2007; Smith et al., 2001), and in the interpretations of managerial participants through the lens of competitive dynamics. Thus, a novel view of the embedded role of IT in firms‘ competitive activity supplants traditional measures of the contributions of IT, such as IT productivity, IT profits, and consumer surplus (Hitt et al. 1996) that provide at best a limited view of IT investment returns (Chi et al., 2007).

The Awareness-Motivation-Capability perspective in a social network context is adapted to the firm-level analysis in this study. Managerial social networks enabled and facilitated by social computing and communications technologies provide a platform for firm-level awareness of the competitive environment, for shared motivation to engage in

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firm‘s capability to engage in competitive actions or responses. The A-M-C is used to provide the logical connection across three phenomena that explicate the findings of Study II: the Competitive Dynamics Managerial Social Network, IT Mediation Intensity in the Competitive Dynamics Social Network Infrastructure, and the Competitive Dynamics Managerial Aggregate Cognitive Map.

8.1. Competitive Dynamics Managerial Social Networks Borgatti and Cross (2003) suggest that to date, most social network studies have been concentrated around findings that relate information seeking to the closeness or strength of a relationship (Burt, 1992; Granovetter, 1973). Lamb and Kling (2003)

suggest the following with regard to information systems research:

…tends to amplify technology specifics and to attenuate the social context, particularly people's relationships with those who have requested information or whom they are trying to persuade with information gathered and packaged through the use of ICTs. (p. 198) Furthermore, many social network studies in the organizational context have examined economic action in the context of interfirm, business-to-business networks (e.g., Ahuja, 2000; Chi et al., 2007a, 2007b; McEvily & Marcus, 2005; Powell et al., 1996; Walker et al., 1997). To date, no studies have been identified that have examined firm-level strategic actions, which are by nature collective and arrived at through consensus (Ferrier, 2001), or in the social network context. In fact, Cross et al. (2002) suggest ―…there has been much less practical attention paid to how informal networks of employees in either

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(p. 45).

Thus, prior to this study, little was known about how managers use informal intrafirm organizational network-relationship structures, or collectivities of managers not found on any organizational chart (Cross et al., 2002) to collectively resolve cognitively complex tasks (Weick & Roberts, 1993; Hutchins, 1991) in the context of firms‘ specific competitive actions or about the role of social computing and communications technologies in the context of enabling and facilitating such network structures.

Extant research specifies that people will have social ties with self-referent others, or those who are at more or less the same social status (Ibarra, 1992; Marsden, 1990).

Furthermore, current research indicates that people will tend to have social ties with those who are in close physical proximity (Krackhardt 1987; Zahn 1991). Thus, utilizing extant research to formulate a baseline assumption in the milieu of FCI‘s managerial team, it was postulated that each social network at each stage of competitive activity would have essentially the same set of participants, playing relatively equal roles, with the social network architectures differing little at each stage of competitive activity, and would be largely dependent upon physical proximity of managers.

The figures below provide visual depictions of the managerial social networks inherent in FCI‘s competitive dynamics process at each stage: Conceiving, Enacting, Executing, and Firm Performance. Line size indicates the strength of tie between managers; thus, the larger the line, the stronger the relation or tie between two managers.

Additionally, the calculations for the aforementioned measures of node centrality:

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addressing the each stage of the competitive dynamics process, while some similarities do existing across the four networks, a particular managerial social network is created in the positioning of nodes (managers) and through a combination of strong and weak ties.

Reporting on centrality measures provides valuable information on how information systems may affect the dissemination and acquisition of information and knowledge among network participants. Hence, centrality measures combined with a visual depiction of tie strength provide an indication of how network architecture may affect any one or combination of the three factors that influence a firm‘s competitive activity, Awareness-Motivation-Capability. Managers at advantageous network positions have a good deal of control over information and knowledge flows among network participants. Thus, managers located at advantageous positions in the network will play a more significant role at a given stage in the competitive dynamics process, thus perhaps exerting greater influence on the media used in the infrastructure of the social network at

that stage. Consider the following perspective from one manager:

There are people here who do not effectively use [the ERP system]. (FCI Manager) Managers in advantageous or controlling positions in a network have the ―power‖ to dictate the primary mechanisms used to acquire and share information. Individuals choosing to resist a given mechanism will be left out of the loop.

First, an overview of each social network structure is presented. Then an evaluation is provided of the role of social computing and communications technologies

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communications technologies within a digitally-mediated aggregate cognitive map is examined in the context of conceiving, enacting, executing and firm performance.

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