Orchestration of networking processes
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Network collaboration between industrial enterprises is the main topic in this dissertation. My aim has been to explore if it is possible to construct a network between industrial enterprises, which for the participating enterprises represents a valuable asset in order to become more innovative, increasing their competitive power. The dissertation contains an overarching umbrella paper and six ordinary papers. The construction of a network consisting of a set of enterprises, calls for contributions in the field from outsiders, such as researchers. Thus, in my study I have used an action research approach, interpreted as the researcher operating as a ‘friendly outsider’ in the network. To be able to enter into problem solving together with local practitioners calls for a longitudinal approach, meaning that the researcher collaborates closely with the network and the enterprises for a long period of time. The research process that I have made use of in my study is divided into two closely linked parts. Firstly, I have been part of a network construction and maintenance process for more than four years, establishing sustainable networking processes. The experiences coming from these processes represent my empirical data. Secondly, I have reflected individually, and participated in joint reflection with actors in the research field over experiences and the results of the actions taken in the network. These reflections have resulted in the writing of six papers that are part of this dissertation. In these papers, I have discussed what I regard as the most important elements to arrange for network collaboration and networking processes. My ambition with the umbrella paper is to pull the different elements discussed in the different papers together in order to present a dynamic networking model. Thus, the model developed is a result of my research on several networks of industrial enterprises. However, the model is not meant to be a definite recipe for constructing additional networks. I regard networks as socially constructed, and as such, they are the result of processes that involve human participation. The personnel involved have their own mental models that will heavily influence the construction and operation of a network. Thus, the model can be used to merely interpret the importance of the existence of a set of enablers while constructing or operating network processes. The model consists of a set of enablers identified through the research process in this study, and they are thoroughly discussed in the different papers as well as in the umbrella. These enablers are: • Training. This is an important enabler that may increase knowledge about development work and processes, and the diffusion of such knowledge. • Network management. Taking care of the daily operation, and closely linked to the enterprises, network management is important in initiating and supporting networking processes. • Processing roles. Personnel able to hold such roles are important for initiating and accomplishing networking processes, as well as for the supply of external knowledge, funding, and general support.Introducing this as an enabler implies, most likely, making it easier for external resources to assist in operating the networking processes. • Network infrastructure. The existence of a network structure that makes it possible for the enterprises to discuss experiences and ideas and to develop knowledge is vital. In Paper V, which is a comparison of networks in Sweden and Norway, the management of the network has been analysed and the most striking discovery is the solid structures that are constructed. • Leadership. The management and unions in the participating enterprises need to take leadership to allow for networking processes to occur. The role of unions in legitimating wide employee involvement seems to be especially important. As I have indicated, the above enablers or instruments, acting differently, are needed to construct sustainable networking processes. Such processes may bring about important innovations or developments for individuals or groups of enterprises, as shown in several of my papers. Individually, the instruments may be good and important, but they may become even better when combined with other instruments. My study indicates that the support given to network processes by combining instruments may increase what the individual instrument can offer. Thus, orchestration of instruments appears as an important and valuable coordination of contributions given to such processes. Thus, I have revealed that the presence of a number of enablers is necessary to establish sustainable networking processes, but these enablers are not sufficient to get these processes going. As I have shown, orchestration is also needed to initiate and continue such processes, and it calls for action researchers who possess skills and knowledge that enable them to serve as orchestrators.
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Haga, Trond; Eriksson, Helena; Hofmaier, Bernd. Nordic benchmarking of regional development. Innovation in open landscape, 2007.