Developing network pictures as a research tool : capturing the output of individuals' sense-making in organisational networks

  • Carla Ramos

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


For the past twenty years, drawing on the Industrial Network Approach, Industrial Marketing and Purchasing Group researchers have been trying to get a better understanding of organisational networks related issues. Researchers frequently highlight that whatever the researched phenomena, it is important to consider actors’ subjective views of the world. The concept of Network Pictures as introduced in the IMP (Industrial Marketing and Purchasing) body of literature by Ford et al. (2002b), refers to those subjective views and despite its recognised importance no in-depth research had been conducted so far on the concept which has thus remained blurred. Ford et al. (2002b) brought in this concept to emphasise that the network is in fact a varying thing depending on what people see. The question is whether this can be translated into a research device, so that researchers may see in a structured and analytical way what an actor’s picture is. This is what this research project is about. The concept’s theoretical foundations are uncovered by reviewing some principles from Sense-Making Theory. This review results most importantly in the identification of a close association between actors’ views of the world and the outcome of those actors’ sense making processes or frameworks. The relevance of actors’ views to obtain a clearer understanding of organisational networks is highlighted when the relation that is believed to exist between those views and action in organisational networks is addressed. With the aim of developing Network Pictures as research tool a two-stage method is put forward and carried out. The method consisted of operationalising the construct of Network Pictures and then testing it in two different network contexts to see if it was usable and useful for carrying out research in organisational networks. The results point to the usability and usefulness of the developed device: not only does it allow for capturing what is believed to be individuals’ views of the world in a rich and comprehensive way, as it also shows diversity between individuals in different contexts. Also and interestingly, some of the identified ‘practitioner theories’ were found to be not coherent with some IMP theoretical cornerstones.
Date of Award1 Jul 2008
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorDavid Ford (Supervisor)


  • networking
  • sense-making
  • research tool
  • network pictures
  • b-2-b marketing

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