Using actors' perceptions of network roles and positions to understand network dynamics

Morten H. Abrahamsen, Stephan C. Henneberg, Peter Naudé

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article explores network dynamics by analysing how actors make sense of time and space in business networks, and how they act based on these perceptions. The time dimension is understood here as actors' perceptions of past, present and future changes in their network. The space dimension is understood, first, in terms of the network position a company holds in relation to its business partners, and secondly, in terms of the network role it enacts. As such, this study relates three pivotal concepts in industrial marketing: network change, network position, and network role. The link between these three relates to the interdependencies within a network, in that if one company attempts to change its position, this will in turn affect the position of other companies. Moreover, actors' attempts to change their position or role in the network are directed by their subjective sensemaking or perceptions of their surrounding network. In this article we posit that in order to understand network dynamics we must analyse how actors attempt to affect change based on their perceptions of their positions and roles in their network environment. Our analysis suggests that although there are similarities between perceptions by actors holding similar positions in the network, such network positions alone cannot explain their actions. Rather, differences in actors' interpretations and enactments of their network role are necessary to explain their networking activities. We use an extensive case study of the changing distribution structure for seafood in Norway and Japan to exemplify these points. © 2012 Elsevier Inc..
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)259-269
Number of pages10
JournalIndustrial Marketing Management
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2012


  • Network change
  • Network dynamics
  • Network position
  • Network role
  • Sensemaking
  • Time and space


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