Understanding network picture complexity: An empirical analysis of contextual factors

Carla Ramos, Stephan C. Henneberg, Peter Naudé

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There has recently been increasing interest in the relationship between managers' perceptions of their surroundings and their interactions with other actors. This sense-making issue is linked to the development of the concept of network pictures. Our paper investigates a hitherto neglected aspect of network pictures: their complexity. In several bodies of literature, complexity has been found to affect firms' action and performance. We theoretically derive a model of network picture complexity, which is then used to analyze forty-seven network pictures collected in seventeen companies from two distinct networks. Complexity is assessed on a number of dimensions at the individual, and organizational levels. We show the relationship between complexity and an individual manager's characteristics (number of years in a company, as well as experience in internally or externally oriented functions). We also provide evidence for a relationship between cognitive complexity and the number of years a company has been established in business, and the complexity of companies' internal structures. In doing so, this article contributes to a better understanding of the contextual factors that drive sense-making in business networks. © 2011 Elsevier Inc.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)951-972
Number of pages21
JournalIndustrial Marketing Management
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2012


  • Business networks
  • Cognitive complexity
  • Contextual factors
  • Network picture
  • Sense-making


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