Companies inevitably interact and entrench in complex organic systems of business relationships with other. These business networks are not objectively defined, instead they are shaped by the subjective perception of actors. This inherent subjectivity is associated with the notion of network pictures, that is, a research tool that researchers or managers can use to grasp practitioner theories. In this chapter, we discuss how the importance of identifying these theories results mainly from underlying principles of sense-making theory, as well as from the idea around performativity. Drawing on these theoretical groundings, this chapter has two objectives: to explore how practitioners actually perceive their business surroundings and to assess the extent of overlapping between (IMP Group) academic theories and practitioner theories. To achieve these objectives, the researchers use a dimensional network pictures model previously developed in the literature to analyze the network pictures of 49 top-level managers across 17 companies from two very distinct contexts or networks: a product-based network and a project-based network. Among other practices, findings illustrate how practitioners tend to simplify what is going on in their complex surroundings, to personalize their relationships with those surroundings, and to think in a stereotyped way. Moreover, the juxtaposition between the captured practitioner theories and academic (IMP Group) theories show that these are not always overlapping, and are in some cases quite the opposite. This research contributes to the ongoing discussion of the importance of grasping actors’ views of the world, arguing that sense-making theory and the notion of performativity are the two main conceptual drivers justifying the urgency in making those views more visible. This research also adds to the research on the impact and suitability of IMP Group theories on managerial thinking and practice. Finally, this research reinforces the current call for further practice-based research in business network contexts.
Ramos, C. and Ford, D. (2014), "How do Managers See it? Capturing Practitioner Theories via Network Pictures", Deep Knowledge of B2B Relationships Within and Across Borders (Advances in Business Marketing and Purchasing, Vol. 20), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 293-375. https://doi.org/10.1108/S1069-0964(2013)0000020008
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