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Sensemaking in Networks: Using Network Pictures to Understand Network Dynamics

Interfirm Networks: Theory, Strategy, and Behavior

ISBN: 978-1-78052-024-7, eISBN: 978-1-78052-025-4

Publication date: 24 August 2011


The study here examines how business actors adapt to changes in networks by analyzing their perceptions or their network pictures. The study is exploratory or iterative in the sense that revisions occur to the research question, method, theory, and context as an integral part of the research process.

Changes within networks receive less research attention, although considerable research exists on explaining business network structures in different research traditions. This study analyzes changes in networks in terms of the industrial network approach. This approach sees networks as connected relationships between actors, where interdependent companies interact based on their sensemaking of their relevant network environment. The study develops a concept of network change as well as an operationalization for comparing perceptions of change, where the study introduces a template model of dottograms to systematically analyze differences in perceptions. The study then applies the model to analyze findings from a case study of Norwegian/Japanese seafood distribution, and the chapter provides a rich description of a complex system facing considerable pressure to change. In-depth personal interviews and cognitive mapping techniques are the main research tools applied, in addition to tracer studies and personal observation.

The dottogram method represents a valuable contribution to case study research as it enables systematic within-case and across-case analyses. A further theoretical contribution of the study is the suggestion that network change is about actors seeking to change their network position to gain access to resources. Thereby, the study also implies a close relationship between the concepts network position and the network change that has not been discussed within the network approach in great detail.

Another major contribution of the study is the analysis of the role that network pictures play in actors' efforts to change their network position. The study develops seven propositions in an attempt to describe the role of network pictures in network change. So far, the relevant literature discusses network pictures mainly as a theoretical concept. Finally, the chapter concludes with important implications for management practice.



Abrahamsen, M.H. (2011), "Sensemaking in Networks: Using Network Pictures to Understand Network Dynamics", Baxter, R. and Woodside, A.G. (Ed.) Interfirm Networks: Theory, Strategy, and Behavior (Advances in Business Marketing and Purchasing, Vol. 17), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 1-197.



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