September 18, 2010

Which Came First – the Work or the Friendship?

What makes business practice reliable, effective and fun? According to Chris Fredette, the secret is to understand the relationship between social networks and work processes.

“Let’s think of organizational actions to block access to services like Facebook in the workplace,” says Fredette, assistant professor of management and strategy at the Sprott School of Business. “This is a losing battle. We should be fighting to capitalize on how these work and how to best use them in a business setting, rather than just trying to kill them because, let’s face it, social networks are going to exist either way.”

Fredette’s primary research focuses on how people work together in an organization and what the impact is of having them work collectively on common projects or tasks. He studies how people work in complex situations when under pressure, in both the for-profit and not-for-profit sectors.

Fredette’s current project, which started about three years ago and is financed by a grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, is about social micro-foundations of organizational capabilities.

Actions to block access to services like Facebook in the workplace…is a losing battle.

“We are interested to see how patterns of relationships emerge among people,” he says. “The question we are trying to answer is—do the process and resource shape each other, or is it the resource that shapes the process? In simpler terms, does our friendship lead us to do great work together, or is it our great work together that leads to us being friends and terrific colleagues?”

To collect data, Fredette and his team are using a contemporary research method—computer-mediated simulations. Participants are placed in networks and asked to make sense of impending crisis scenarios. This helps to understand how people recognize, respond and manage in crisis situations. The target of their study is 350 people.

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