Problem representations and collective mind within networks

Ogundipe, Samuel Johnson (2020) Problem representations and collective mind within networks. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

[img] PDF (Thesis - as examined) - Repository staff only - Requires a PDF viewer such as GSview, Xpdf or Adobe Acrobat Reader
Download (2MB)


This dissertation is primarily motivated by the shortage of research in business network context that focuses on explaining how shared understanding and collective cognition develop in business relationships. The study is rooted in a broader research agenda that investigates the interplay between human cognition, action, and outcome. However, despite the central position of this body of work within the context of relationship management, the conceptual evolution has been mainly about individual subjective cognition – e.g. manager’s network insights or network picture. Consequently, marketing scholars have invested a considerable research effort in individuals and dyads with relatively limited attention to the overall networks’ collective perspectives.

The aim of this dissertation is, therefore, to empirically investigate the process of forming a collective mind as an outcome of collaborative actions in business networks. The formation of collective mind has been previously studied within intraorganizational settings. However, conducting such investigation within a network context could shed more light on scholars' understanding of the concept, while also having far-reaching managerial implications and theoretical significance. For instance, in construction projects, any mindless interrelation between project teams could slow down project outcomes, result in unnecessary coordination costs, and potentially lead to an unhealthy and uncertain work environment. And from a theoretical standpoint, the concept of collective mind enables the amalgamation of subjective (individual) network pictures into the inter-subjective network processes that are jointly experienced by network actors. Therefore, the study elucidates the dynamic nature of business relationships by incorporating opinions and perspectives from multiple network members. Moreover, a team level concept – interfirm problem representations (IFPR) – is also developed to illustrate how a diverse range of localized mechanisms, rules, and resources are combined and synergised by network actors to facilitate the establishment of a unified perspective at different decision episodes.

Two research questions were investigated in this dissertation, which involves the use of qualitative evidence and necessary condition analysis. For the qualitative data, a case study research strategy is utilized to capture any contextual factors that might be influencing the actions and decision making of network actors in different social settings. Observation of three different construction project teams was conducted over a period of eleven months. During the period, a total of forty-three project team meetings were attended and thirty-two face-to-face interviews conducted across the three project teams.

Furthermore, a structured questionnaire was used to collect specific data which aligns with the logic of NCA – that is, necessary condition analysis. The data collection for NCA involved the construction project actors who were also interviewed for qualitative data. The qualitative data were organised on NVivo and analysed using DREIC model and temporal bracketing strategy. NCA software was used for the necessary condition analysis, which focused mainly on the second research question of the dissertation. Inspired by the critical realist's view of social reality, the DREIC model facilitated the presentation and structuring of the research findings. It also enables the study to effectively highlight the causal linkages between events, agentic actions, and the underlying structures enabling or constraining the actions.

Discussion of the research findings results in the development of a revised framework for collective mind indicating how network actors manage and respond to social contingencies while using IFPR as a benchmark for defining acceptable actions. The framework also highlights the structural and relational mechanisms moderating the interaction processes between the project partners. The study identifies five antecedent conditions that are required to establish and maintain a collective mind between network actors. Lastly, this dissertation advances earlier assumptions on shared cognition and knowledge sharing by demonstrating that the reciprocal interplay between cognition and actions only leads to collective mind if there is an appropriate communication pathway for sharing knowledge across network boundaries. The study ends by presenting the theoretical and managerial implications of the research findings and concludes with some recommendations for future research.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Peters, Linda D.
Toth, Zsofia
Keywords: Collective mind, sensemaking, boundary objects, problem representation, shared cognition, knowledge sharing, coordination, multidisciplinary teams, relationship management, collaboration, project management, construction project, project teams, problem solving, knowledgeability
Subjects: H Social sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Social Sciences, Law and Education > Nottingham University Business School
Item ID: 61533
Depositing User: Ogundipe, Samuel Johnson
Date Deposited: 11 Dec 2020 04:40
Last Modified: 11 Dec 2022 04:30

Actions (Archive Staff Only)

Edit View Edit View