Thursday, October 22, 2015

States of connectivity

From my Inaugural Lecture, 15 September 2015.

Title: 'Connectivity isn't everything (but it's almost everything)'

States of Connectivity

While metaphors are powerful, ‘there is nothing so practical as a good theory’ (Lewin, 1948). 

My research has been following a classic trajectory, with a few pure theoretical papers, followed by empirical field and survey research, which in turn is being followed with applied research.

When my colleagues and I went into the field, our primary research question was: How much connectivity is enough?  Too little? Too much? In relation to team performance.  Our field work was conducted at three product development sites within a multinational medical electronics company.  The sites were located in Boston, MA, Seattle, WA and Bangalore, India.  From the field research, we developed a theoretical model as well as an extensive survey instrument, through which we have collected data from 29 globally distributed work teams.

In our model of ‘requisite connectivity’ (Kolb, Collins and Lind, 2008), we identify four (4) states of connectivity in relation to performance.  The states of connectivity are ‘hypo-‘ (too little), ‘hyper-‘ (too much), ‘requisite’ (a threshold condition, good enough) and ‘flow’ (an ideal, optimal state).

The model has general appeal when I talk to knowledge workers and those who work across distances. 
We have however learned through that large-scale team study that these states of connectivity do not actually occur or have meaning at the team level (which was sort of a bummer).  Essentially, we found connective states to be in the ‘eye of the beholder,’ and so individual-level analysis is our focus at the moment.

The state of ‘flow’ has become a metaphor on its own. Kristine Dery, Judy MacCormick and I have used the metaphor of flow to describe how smartphone users do not necessarily switch ‘on’ and ‘off,’ but rather they regulate the ‘flow’ of messages between work and non-work connections, much as one might open a water tap more or less, without shutting it off entirely.  We call this ‘working with flow.’

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