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Interestingly, each social network can be viewed as an informal platform that managers have structured specifically for each stage in the competitive dynamics process for communication and the exchange of information and knowledge. Ideally, each social network formation would optimize firm-level awareness of the competitive environment, and effectively distribute the information and knowledge best suited for a given stage of the competitive dynamics process on motivation to act and the strategic and resource endowments that provide the capability to act. Thus, each social network structure would help the firm move toward the strategic actions that are most advantageous to the firm and that would have positive impact upon firm performance.
weak ties (Granovetter, 1973), or the idea that weak ties may provide the strongest link to novel ideas or information. In fact, extant research has shown the importance of weak ties in the diffusion of new information and knowledge (Burt, 1992; Granovetter, 1982;
Lin, 1982). Scant attention, however, has been paid to the true role of strong ties in transferring information and knowledge among network participants. Hansen (1999) suggests that perhaps the importance of strong ties has been discounted, as it is only through strong ties that tacit knowledge can be acquired or shared, with strong ties indicating shared perspectives and common understanding. Furthermore, it has been noted in the literature that organizational participants are not simple users of technology but social actors who are influenced by various environmental forces that affect usersystem interactions (Lamb & Kling, 2003), which may have profound effects upon participation in social networks mediated by information technologies. Additionally, it must be considered that as technology plays an increasingly important role in facilitating connections among managers, the social network pattern becomes increasingly fluid, as reliance upon face-to-face communication becomes less prevalent and reliance upon technology for enabling the needed structure at the time become more prevalent.
8.2. IT Mediation Intensity in the Competitive Dynamics Social Network Infrastructure While important insights have been reached through extant social network research regarding the strength of ties and positioning of nodes, none has broached the issue of how social computing and communications technologies are being used to
current study, clearly, managers are located in more or less advantageous positions in a given social network. Furthermore, managers use various media to support their relationships with others in a given network structure. Thus, a manager who finds himself tied within IT intensive relationships and in an advantageous position in the network is likely to have access to and some measure of control over information and knowledge resources that offer more potential for superior performance than what is available to managers who lack comparable access to such information and knowledge resources. The following sections evaluate the role of the thirteen previously identified media in supporting the social network infrastructures at each stage of the competitive dynamics process.
8.2.1. Media used in the Competitive Dynamics Social Network Infrastructure. The bi-partitie graphs (Borgatti & Everette, 1997) provided below depict several two-mode social networks as examples of the media used by managers in their social network structures, and these two-mode networks are used to aide in further understanding of managers‘ interpretations of use of various media in the social network infrastructures at the four stages of competitive action. The two-mode social networks in each stage of the competitive dynamics process are provided for three managerial participants, the Controller, the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) and the Chief Operating Offier (COO). The Controller and the COO were chosen to show as examples due to their relative centrality in all four social networks, and due to their primary offices being
In the figures below, visual depictions of the use of various media (blue squares) used in the Controller‘s, the CFO‘s and the COO‘s social network ties (red circles) are provided at each of the four stages of the competitive dynamics process: Conceiving, Enacting, Executing, and Firm Performance. The green squares on the left depict media not used by managers in these social network relationships. The darker the line, the more important the media in a given social network relation.
information regarding the use of various media in the Controller‘s, the COO‘s, and the CFO‘s social network ties in the Conceiving social network infrastructure.
Figure 11 Media Use in Controller’s Conceiving Social Network Ties Recall that in the one-mode managerial social network at the Conceiving stage of the competitive dynamics process, the Controller plays a strong bridging role in the network. Essentially the Controller largely controls connections between managers most directly involved in new product development and those managers more indirectly involved. Recall also that the Controller has the highest overall centrality measures in the network, with the greatest number of direct ties (degree), serving as the most important broker between disparate nodes (betweenness), and having the shortest path to all nodes in the network (closeness). In the context of the role of the various media serving to
network is significant. As stated early in this dissertation, if intrafirm social computing networks can be used as a platform to facilitate information flow and enable collective decision-making en route to competitive actions such as new product development, new market entry, new customer acquisition, price changes, or toward responses to competitors actions, there are significant opportunities for organizations to build competitive flexibility and responsiveness toward market changes and opportunities.
Figure 12 demonstrates that the Controller‘s social network ties rely just as heavily, or more heavily upon technological mechanisms to facilitate ties between the Controller and others within the Conceiving social network than many traditional forms of interaction, such as traditional telephone and informal face-to-face interactions.
An evaluation of the prevalence of the use of social computing and communication technologies among not only all people in a given network, but especially in ties with those individuals in positions of importance of the network will largely dictate technological intensity in the flow of information and knowledge. An examination of Figure 12 indicates that Skype plays a role in three of the Controller‘s social network ties. However, an examination of Figure 11 shows that Skype is very important in each of these ties. Conversely, Figure 12 indicates that traditional telephone plays a role in ten
supporting these ties.
Figure 13 below provides a visual depiction of the use of various media used in the CFO‘s ties in the Conceiving social network.
It should be pointed out that the CFO is primarily located in China. With this in mind, it is interesting to note that Informal Face-to-Face, Regularly Scheduled Face-toFace, Blackberry email, and Blackberry phone are the media generally most used in ties to and from the CFO. Face-to-face types of media range from not very important to very important depending upon the relational tie in question, while Blackberry interactions are considered very important regardless of to whom the CFO is tied, a strong indication of the reliance upon the mediation of technology in social relationships with the CFO.
Skype also figures prominently as important form of media in several social network ties.
also located primarily in China, it appears that face-to-face interactions are important, but technology oriented actions appear to be equally important.
Figure 14 demonstrates that both face-to-face or more traditional media and more technology oriented media are equally important in mediating the CFO‘s social network ties. Daft and Lengel (1986) and Daft, Lengel and Trevino (1987) suggest that certain types of media are more suitable for specific organizational tasks, depending up the level of uncertainty and equivocality associated with the task. From these results, it can be ascertained that even with innovations in technology that allow face-to-face interactions such as video conferencing and Skype, managers still value face-to-face meetings and interactions. Thus traditional forms of interactions in the social network context cannot be discounted. It is also clear to see, however, that face-to-face interactions are no longer sufficient, as these managers place an equally important emphasis upon technology
mediated relationships. For example, consider Skype. While the CFO utilizes Skype in three social network ties, it is considered a very important media in all three ties, as can be seen in Figure 13. Conversely, while regular face-to-face plays a role in four social network ties, it is considered very important in only one.
Again both traditional and technology mediated interactions exist. The results of analysis indicate that regular face-to-face meetings are very important mechansims in supporting the COO‘s relational ties.
While Figure 16 indicates that regular telephone plays some role in ten social network ties, Figure 15 shows that it is not a very important media in sustaining these relationships.
The results of analysis indicate that both traditional media as well as technologically-oriented media playing vital roles in sustaining ties among the social network participants. However, Lamb and Kling (2003) remind us that organizational participants are not simple users of technology but social actors who are influenced by various environmental forces that affect user-system interactions. Thus, in examining Figure 16 above as compared to the Controller and CFO, some differences can be seen across media use. For example, while one manager may view his use of Skype as a suitable or even vital forum for seeking or providing awareness, information on motivation of action, or information on capability of action, another manager may be
Thus, the effectiveness of various media is not viewed equally by all social network participants, which may have profound effects upon participation in social networks mediated by information technologies.
Enacting, Executing, Firm Performance – Strength of social network media.
Figures 17 through 25 provide additional visual evidence of the presence and strength of use of various media in facilitating network ties among the social network ties of the Controller, CFO and COO in FCI‘s managerial team at other stages of the competitive dynamics process. Similarities and differences are discussed.
As stated earlier, there are differences across network ties examined in these examples in terms of the use of more traditional media such as face-to-face interactions and traditional telephone and more technologically advanced types of media such as
the competitive dynamics process, there are some similarities. For example, findings indicate that instant messaging and SMS text messaging are not typically (IM) used to support relational ties among managers at any stage. It should be pointed out that IM emphasized here is outside the Skype application, which managers do use quite extensively and might explain their lack of use of IM in other applications. Interestingly, while Blackberry email is strongly utilized to support the relational ties of these managers, SMS text messaging is not strongly used across the managerial team to support relational ties in the context of the competitive dynamics process. As stated earlier, the CFO is primarily located in China; thus, as this is a global company, the use of the Blackberry and Skype are efficient and cost effective in facilitating and enabling his ties with other managers.
8.2.2. IT Mediation Intensity Defined. IT intensity has been evaluated in different ways in the literature. It has been described in the academic literature as the IT infrastructure in place that allows organizations capitalize upon IT investments in a manner to best pursue organizational objectives (Chen & Ching, 2004), and in the practitioner literature as a company‘s IT expense as a factor of its operational expenses or as a ratio of revenue to IT spending (Hirji, 2006). For purposes of identifying the mediating role of IT in the competitive dynamics social network infrastructure, IT mediation intensity is defined as a ratio of the number high IT intensive ties to the total number of ties in the network.
Social Network Infrastructure. Through the use of semi-structured and structured interview data, the managerial social network at each stage of the competitive dynamics process has been identified. The various media that are used by managers in formulating and facilitating the social network infrastructures at each stage have been recognized, ranging from face-to-face interactions to those interactions entirely mediated by technology. This study has taken a fine grained and in-depth look at the strength of use of various social network media for each manager participating in each social network.
In order to examine the intensity of the use of technologically advanced media across the entire social network infrastructure at each stage of the competitive dynamics process, IT Mediation Intensity has been operationalized as an intensity ratio, calculated as the number of ties in a network utilizing IT in the tie divided by the total number of ties in the network, with a range of 0 to 1. Table 4 provides the IT Mediation Intensity Ratios for each of the four social networks in the competitive dynamics process.