Attributes of Company Culture

Schein (1990) describes organisational culture as the shared history of an organisation influencing the way in which it operates and the way in which individuals behave but explains that culture is a difficult concept to define. This difficulty is also discussed by Tharp (2009a) who suggests that organisational culture can be defined as the ‘glue’ which holds together a group of employees and the ‘compass’ which guides leaders.

Cultural Compass - Richard Price

Schein (1990) identifies three main ways in which the culture of a company is revealed:

1)    observable artefacts

2)    values

3)    basic underlying assumptions

These elements overlap to form the culture of the company with the values and basic underlying factors being driven from the leadership of the organisation.

It is the observable artefacts which we will explore in more detail but these are significantly influenced by the values and culture imposed on the company. Observable artefacts are the features which can be observed when inspecting or visiting an organisation. Some of these observable behaviours and appearances need not be tangible (physically observed) but sensed (Bauer and Erdogan, 2013) meaning an independent observer can ‘feel’ them.

Schein (1990) notes however, that there are flaws with making these observations based purely on first impressions as the interpretation may be unreliable. Just because an organisation seems formal and austere for example, does not necessarily mean they are not productive and market-leading.

There are many examples of differing corporate cultures from the IT industry and it is these differing cultures which can facilitate the success or failure of an organisation. Consider the hardware and software manufacturer Hewlett Packard (HP). In the 1950’s HP adopted a culture where their employees were highly valued and are largely regarded as one of the first of the IT companies in Silicon Valley to have adopted this approach (Groeger, 2006). This type of culture has now been widely adopted by other organisations in the IT sector, referred to by Tharp (2009b) as a ‘create’ culture.

Line (1999) likens different organisational cultures to different animals such as wolves and chimpanzees. Line suggests that the ‘create’ culture is like a Gorilla. The Gorilla is gentle, peaceful and good natured but their size and presence can be intimidating to competitors, much like HP.

Groeger (2006) observes that HP had a very relaxed and generous company culture, reportedly treating their employees like family, calling each other by first names and providing a range of staff benefits including share options. These are the observable artefacts of HP and this relaxed culture may go some way to explaining their success as this culture helps motivate employees and increases productivity. Other visible signs of organisational culture at HP include their modern offices filled with technology such as video walls and gaming studios (Jana, 2007). It is these visible signs which a company exhibits which can give an impression of the culture, in this case of a modern, aspirational company.



Bauer, T. & Erdogan, B. (2013) Organizational Behavior, FWK [Online]. Available from: (Accessed: 16 February 2013).

Groeger, M. (2006) The HP Way – an example of corporate culture for a whole industry. [Online]. Available from: (Accessed: 16 February 2013).

Jana, R. (2007) ‘HP’s Cultural Revolution’, Bloomberg [Online]. Available from: (Accessed: 16 February 2013).

Line, M. (1999) ‘Types of organisational culture’, Library Management, 20(2), pp.73-75, Emerald [Online]. Available from: (Accessed: 16 February 2013).

Schein, E. (1990) ‘Organizational culture’, American Psychologist, 45(2), pp. 109-119, Ebscohost [Online]. Available from: (Accessed: 15 February 2013).

Tharp, B. (2009a) ‘Defining “Culture” and “Organizational Culture”:  From Anthropology to the Office’, Haworth. [Online]. Available from: (Accessed: 16 February 2013).

Tharp, B. (2009b) ‘Four Organizational Culture Types’. [Online]. Available from: (Accessed: 16 February 2013).


Power, Politics and Conflict in a Digital World

The roles of leader and manager may appear distinct but there is significant overlap and synergy between the two functions and the distinction is not as clear as it may first appear. In recent years, there has been a trend to move organisations away from traditional hierarchical management structures towards a more open leadership style which is more participative and allows individual leaders to emerge at all levels of an organisation.

The difference between leaders and managers

It is generally accepted that the main distinction between the roles is that managers follow instructions while leaders try to influence the outcome of these instructions and decisions (Buchanan & Huczynski, 2010, pp. 598). Kearley (2010) for example, found that outstanding leaders “see the whole picture rather than compartmentalising”, whereas managers tend to work in silos and carry out instructions.

However, there are also many other differences between the two types of function as outlined in the table below showing the differences and similarities between managers and leaders – based on information from Zalenik (1977) and Giang (2012).

Managers Leaders
Rational and controlling Laid back and rely on Trust
Directive Supportive
Autocratic Democratic
Have position based authority Authority and respect are earned
Achieve Goals using prescribed methods Achieve goals by exploring alternative methods
Ask closed questions Ask open questions
Enable processes Establish processes
Communicate using instructions Communicate using broad objectives
Administer Innovate

Although there are clearly differences between the two types of function, it is important to realise that an individual can fulfil both the role of manager and leader. There are times when it is appropriate to behave more like a leader and think strategically and times when it is more appropriate to follow instructions and behave more like a manager.

How are Leadership qualities affected by online environments?

Goethals, Sorenson and MacGregor Burns (2004) discuss how the traditional roles of manager and leader are beginning to change in the digital age with new social structures evolving that use technology as well as more traditional methods of communication. They highlight that leadership in the digital environment is less hierarchical and can span not just geographical boundaries but political and organisational boundaries too.

This is certainly my experience, as increasingly my role requires me to work with individuals outside my organisational boundaries to fulfil shared objectives. Not only is this resulting in a different way of having to lead groups of disparate people but has also resulted in the formation of virtual teams.

Virtual teams use collaborative and communication tools (such as discussion forums and video conferencing) to facilitate joint working across the confines of traditional organisational limits. In these teams, there is no specified leader so it is interesting to observe how a leader will still emerge as the dominant figure. Even in these virtual teams there are still opportunities to innovate and to look at wider strategic aims to achieve shared goals.

Which management and leadership skills are changing?

Mortensen and O’Leary (2012) suggest that as teams become virtualised, there is a need for leaders of the teams to become more autocratic and less democratic, shifting from the coaching and mentoring role to the directing and delegating role.

This suggests that the situational leadership model proposed by Ken Blanchard is less applicable to teams working in the online world.  Smeby (2011) describes how individuals moving through the change curve of the model will require different types of management and leadership at different stages as shown in figure 1. However, the virtual environment is not as conducive to this kind of interaction as it would be in the offline world, so leaders need to focus more on the ‘delegating’ element for competent employees and the ‘direction’ element for less competent individuals.

The difficulties forming relationships in a virtual team could go some way to explaining this change so managers have to behave less like leaders and become more directive.  Mortensen and O’Leary (2012) warn that without strong direction, there is likely to be confusion about aims and objectives leaving employees feeling frustrated and confused and potentially missing deadlines.

Blanchard’s Situational Leadership Model - Richard Price

Blanchard’s Situational Leadership Model – Taken from Smeby (2011)


Which functions seem to be relatively stable?

That is not to say though that the leadership function is being replaced in the online world by a more autocratic regime. There are still opportunities for leaders to emerge but more effort is required because of the difficulties building rapport in virtual teams.

Goethals, Sorenson and MacGregor Burns (2004) argue that while the way in which teams are working may be different and there is an increased reliance on technology, the fundamental roles of leaders and managers are not changing, as goals still need to be achieved and targets met. Managers still need to administer and leaders still need to innovate.


Can we make predictions about future development?

We are already seeing organisations taking a less hierarchical approach to leadership with many employers encouraging leadership at all levels. I believe this trend will continue in the future and this is a view shared by a number of authors who contributed to a discussion facilitated by the Harvard Business Review (Peebles, 2010). The contributors argue that the hierarchical structures are no longer sustainable as individuals do not respond favourably to ‘top down’ leadership.

Peebles (2010) also discusses the need for greater ‘mindfulness’ particularly in the online world of leadership. To succeed, online leaders must spend more time observing and paying attention to their teams than they perhaps would in the office environment.

This means that leaders can potentially emerge within their organisation or even outside the organisation to influence the direction of a team. For example, anyone can setup a blog and voice their opinion. A Twitter page can be created with people following the opinions and ideas of an individual, so that person becomes a leader even though they do not directly manage or have any physical presence with the people they are influencing.



Buchanan, D. & Huczynski, A. (2010) Organizational Behaviour. 7th Ed. London: Pearson.

Giang, V. (2012) 3 Things That Separate Leaders From Managers. [Online]. Available from: (Accessed: 13 February 2013).

Goethals, G., Sorenson, G. & MacGregor Burns, J. (2004) ‘Leadership in the Digital Age’, Encyclopedia of Leadership [Online]. Available from: (Accessed: 13 February 2013).

Kearley, R. (2010) What makes an outstanding leader? [Online]  Available from: (Accessed: 12 February 2013).

Mortensen, M. & O’Leary, M. (2012) ‘Managing a Virtual Team’, Harvard Business Review Blog. [Online]. Available from: (Accessed: 13 February 2013).

Peebles, E. (2010) ‘What Lies Ahead for Leadership?’, Harvard Business Review Blog [Online]. Available from: (Accessed: 13 February 2013).

Zaleznik, A. (1977) ‘Managers and leaders: Are they different’, Harvard Business [Online]. Available from: (Accessed: 13 February 2013).

Virtual Teams

Buchanan & Huczynski (2010, pp.344) define a virtual team as a team working on a shared task in different geographical, temporal and cultural locations facilitated by communication technologies, much like our group projects for this module.

Maznevski & Chudoba (2000) discuss the rise in the use of globally distributed teams to achieve shared objectives but acknowledge the difficulties of forming a team when the groups almost never meet face-to-face. Contrast that with a traditional team who are invariably based in the same building and have the opportunity to meet and discuss on a regular basis.

Without the advent of communication technology, the concept of a virtual team would be difficult or impossible to achieve as the tools have enabled communication over great distances and provided the opportunity to work closely across cultural and political divides. Maznevski & Chudoba (2000) conclude that it is possible to form a successful virtual team but it requires initial face-to-face contact and subsequent regular virtual meetings.

Kirkman, et al. (2003) identify five main challenges for managers setting up a virtual team based on interviews with leaders and employees already working in virtual teams:

  1. Building Trust
  2. Maximizing Process Gains and Minimizing Process Losses
  3. Overcoming Feelings of Isolation
  4. Balancing Technical and Interpersonal Skills
  5. Assessment and Recognition of Performance

If these issues can be addressed, Kirkman et al. conclude that there is no reason why a virtual team should not be successful.

To build any team (physical or virtual), the key is successful communication. While there are numerous communication tools available via the web, the ones which will work best are the ones participants are comfortable using and will work with the technology limitations (e.g. bandwidth and hardware restrictions). Aneas, et al. (n.d.) discuss the merits of different technologies in virtual communication, suggesting for example, that video conferencing may not be appropriate for some multinational teams who share different first languages as the pace of conversation can be a barrier to comprehension.

Video conferencing and teleconferencing are two means of engaging with employees and building ‘team spirit’ by allowing the individuals to visually engage with each other. Electronicdawn (2013) provides a summary of a research paper by Hofmann which suggests that video conferencing opposed to telephone and email communication, resulted in not only increased productivity but 81% of participants reported an increase in ‘team spirit’.

Where there are significant differences in time zone, synchronous communication like video or telephone conferencing may not be practical, leaving the only option to be asynchronous communication.

Jarvenpaa and Leidner (1999) examine the use of asynchronous communication in the workplace. With this type of communication, not all participants need to be online at the same time and can contribute when it is convenient via online discussions. Jarvenpaa and Leidner assert that although initial trust is high using these methods, participants are less tolerant of mistakes and failures.

Vonderman (2003) experienced similar results in an asynchronous online classroom but suggests that skilled tutors can facilitate communication just as a skilled manager could lead the virtual team.



Aneas, A., Cosgrove, C., Harper, A., Niesen, A., Reich, E. & Simons, G. (n.d.) Tools for Global Virtual Teams. [Online]. Available from: (Accessed: 3 February 2013).

Buchanan, D. & Huczynski, A. (2010) Organizational Behaviour. 7th Ed. London: Pearson.

Electronicdawn (2013) Video-conferencing ups productivity of virtual teams. [Online]. Available from: (Accessed: 3 February 2013).

Jarvenpaa, S. & Leidner, D. (1999) ‘Communication and Trust in Global Virtual Teams’, Organization Science, 10(6), pp.791-815, Ebscohost [Online]. Available from: (Accessed: 3 February 2013).

Kirkman, B., Rosen, B., Gibson, C. & Tesluk, P. (2002) ‘Five Challenges to Virtual Team Success: Lessons from Sabre, Inc.’, The Academy of Management Executive, 16(3), pp. 67-79, Ebscohost [Online].  Available from: (Accessed: 3 February 2013).

Maznevski, M. & Chudoba, K. (2000) ‘Bridging Space over Time: Global Virtual Team Dynamics and Effectivenes’, Organization Science, 11(5), pp.473-479, Ebscohost [Online]. Available from: (Accessed: 3 February 2013).

Vonderman, S. (2003) ‘An examination of asynchronous communication experiences and perspectives of students in an online course: a case study’, The Internet and Higher Education, 6(1), pp. 77-90, ScienceDirect [Online]. Available from: (Accessed: 3 February 2013).

Perception and decision making

The Institute of Leadership and Management (2013) defines participative management as a democratic approach to decision making where the team work to decide their goals and objectives with their manager.

participative management  - Richard PriceThe concept of participative management has been around for a number of years but it became popular and saw widespread adoption in the 1970’s (Halal & Brown, 1981).

Participative management is at the opposite end of the management spectrum to more traditional authoritative or autocratic management styles where the manager instructs and directs staff to perform tasks. McGregors X/Y theory of management was amongst the first to identify this new style of management suggesting that organisations should move away from autocratic (theory X) management towards participative (theory Y) management (Kopelman, Prottas & Davis, 2008)

I have experienced this style of management in several of my jobs and I find it has helped me to achieve many of my career aspirations. It is a method I try to use when I manage my team and encourage them to participate with the development of work plans and projects. However, it is important to recognise that not everyone likes this style of management and some individuals prefer to be lead.

In reality there are varying degrees of participative management. In some situations, it is suitable to draw on the experiences of a team and allow them to participate in the overall vision for a project or solution. However, there are always occasions where time pressures prevent this from occurring and a more directive approach to management is appropriate.

Indeed, McGregors X/Y model takes account of this and explores the level to which a manager is autocratic and the level to which they are democratic to provide a balanced score.

In a commercial software development company which works with customers to develop bespoke software, there is certainly an element of participative management as the company can make recommendations but ultimately the customer’s specification needs to be produced, so the management style needs to be less participative and more authoritative.

Compare that approach with a software development company such as Google. Although Google still have customers to satisfy, the development is far more flexible and employees have the opportunity to contribute to the product roadmap (Hernandez, 2008)

In my organisation – an emergency ambulance service – a participative management style can work in certain areas of the organisation such as in non-operational teams who deal largely with project work rather than ‘business as usual’ activities. Project work lends itself to a much more participative style as the team can be involved with making important decisions and contributing to the project plan from the outset.

In these situations, a hands-off management style can be more appropriate as it enables the team to be much more involved in the success of the project. The ultimate form of participative management is often referred to as ‘laissez faire’ management and this technique delegates all decision making to the team and the leader/manager acts solely as coach (Goodnight, 2004).

Hands Off Management - Richard PriceHowever, other areas of the organisation do not lend themselves as readily to this kind of management and are better suited to a more autocratic style. As an emergency service with lives to save and the time pressures associated with attending a patient, there is little negotiation about duties and targets (most of which are centrally imposed by the Government) so a participative management style would not work in this instance. Indeed, many organisations like the Police and Army operate using this autocratic approach to leadership as the hierarchical management structure mandates individuals to obey orders.

The major benefits of the participative approach are the reported improvements to job satisfaction of employees (Marchant, 1982). The approach empowers individuals to shape their destiny and that of their team resulting in improved motivation and improved quality of output with the individuals becoming stakeholders rather than just participants. These are powerful motives to implement this management technique.

Udo and Ehie (1996) also reported reduced costs in the manufacturing process as the time required by a manager to supervise employees is theoretically reduced.

However, Kim (1986) reports that many managers can feel frustrated at the implementation of participative management styles as they do not necessarily understand the management method and can be intimidated by it as it is so different from traditional management methods.

From experience of trying to implement participative management, it can be very time consuming to involve all members of the team as it requires the leader to facilitate participative sessions and discussions, taking time away from the developers and time away from the manager to perform their other duties. When trying to involve everyone, the response from team members is not always positive as they feel under time pressure to deliver their objectives, which is not always conducive to effective contribution and there is a tendency to deviate from the main goals.

There appear to be more advantages than disadvantages to the participative management approach but when implementing it, organisations need to carefully consider if it is appropriate for their business and whether the expected advantages of this method will be realised.



Goodnight, R. (2004) ‘Laissez-faire leadership’, Encyclopedia of Leadership, Sage Publications [Online]. Available from: (Accessed: 27 January 2013).

Halal, W., Brown, B. (1981) ‘Participative Management: Myth and Reality’, California Management Review, 23(4), pp. 20-32, Ebscohost [Online]. Available from: (Accessed: 27 January 2013).

Hernandez, C. (2008) The Organizational Culture that Exists Within Google. [Online]. Available from: (Accessed: 29 January 2013).

Institute of Leadership and Management (2013) Management Styles [Online]. Available from: (Accessed: 26 January 2013).

Kim, F. (1986) ‘Human Resource Management in Action: Management Roles in the Implementation of Participative Management Systems’, Human Resource Management, 25(3), pp. 459-480, Ebscohost [Online]. Available from: (Accessed: 26 January 2013).

Kopelman, R., Prottas, D., Davis, A. (2008) ‘Douglas McGregor’s Theory X and Y: Toward a Construct-valid Measure’, Journal of Managerial Issues, 20(2), pp. 255-271, ProQuest [Online]. Available from: (Accessed: 26 January 2013).

Marchant, M. (1982) ‘Participative Management, Job Satisfaction, & Service’, Library Journal, 107(8), pp.782-785, Ebscohost [Online]. Available from: (Accessed: 29 January 2013).

Udo, G. & Ehie, I. (1996) ‘Advanced manufacturing technologies. Determinants of implementation success’, International Journal of Operations & Production Management, 16(12), pp.6-26, Emerald. [Online]. Available from: (Accessed: 29 January 2013).

Organizational behavior studies: Why do people behave the way they do?

What causes people to behave differently in similar situations?

In any given situation, different people will behave in different, often unpredictable ways. An individual’s behaviour can be influenced by previous experiences of a similar situation, their culture or even what mood they are in at that particular moment.

Pan Am Tenerife - predicting people's behaviour - Richard PriceAttribution theory can be used to help an individual identify the reasons for their behaviour (McLeod, 2010). Individuals will often attribute their actions on environmental factors whereas observers will attribute the actions of individuals on their personality. Attribution theory suggests that an individual will make a judgement on the situation and behave according to their mood and past experiences.

Social and cultural influences can affect how different groups of individuals will behave in a situation. While in European culture it is considered appropriate to shake hands as a greeting, in Japan the preference is to bow, so consider how two individuals from these different cultural backgrounds would behave when they first meet and how they might greet each other. They would likely behave differently even though they are in the same social situation.

Buchanan and Huczynski, (2010, pp.52) discuss how different individuals judge their behaviour to be ethical or not. Our upbringing and culture can influence what we consider ethical and how we would behave compared to a colleague, but the environment (the culture of the organisation for example) can influence our behaviour. What we consider ethical in one context (for example in a business context) might be completely different where the setting is different (for example in a charitable context).


To what degree can we predict their behaviour?

It is difficult to predict human behaviour and almost impossible to guarantee how someone will react to a given situation. Simon (1985) discusses how it is important to understand human rationality and the boundaries which govern that. Simon argues that rationality is governed by our subjective views of the World based on previous experiences and ideas rather than more tangible facts and figures. If we were to know the subjective views of an individual it would be considerably easier to predict their behaviour than if we had no knowledge of the individual.

However, I would argue that as the complexity of the situation increases, the number of parameters increase and therefore the less chance we have to predict the influences on an individual’s behaviour.

A situation with few parameters can be fairly easy to predict regardless of the individual. Imagine an individual returning to their car to find a parking ticket on the window. Most people will exhibit anger or frustration to a greater or lesser extent. Perhaps we can’t predict the level of anger, but it is fair to say that we can predict that the individual won’t be happy with the situation.

Under high pressure situations such as in the event of an aircraft crash landing, it would seem relatively simple to predict human behaviour. One would assume that as soon as possible after the incident the passengers would rush to the exits and try and leave the aircraft. However, the evidence suggests otherwise and in reality everyone reacts differently in this situation, making this a far more complex and difficult situation to predict (McRaney, 2012, pp. 57).

In 1977 at Tenerife airport, a KLM Boeing 747 aircraft carrying close to 300 passengers careered down the runway at take-off speed as a Pan Am Boeing 747 aircraft crossed the runway. Due to a combination of thick fog, and the pilots mistaking instructions from air traffic control, the crew were unable to see each other and ended up colliding causing 583 fatalities – the worst airline disaster in history.

The subsequent investigation into the crash suggested that far more people died than would have been killed by the initial impact with many people remaining in their seats as fire engulfed the aircraft. Leach (2004) explains that the reason for this behaviour is because individuals crave normality and try to deny the perilous situation they are in by going into a state of shock. McRaney (2012) calls this ‘normalcy bias’. Some people did leave their seats to escape, some will have helped others on their way out, some will have reacted calmly and some will have panicked, but it would have been impossible to predict how each individual would react in advance.

Thankfully, few experiences in life are as extreme as this example but the different reactions in this serious situation demonstrate that predicting human behaviour is actually very difficult and the more complex the situation, the greater the number of parameters that will influence behaviour, so the number of possible outcomes increases.


Can Organizational Behaviour help us to increase the probability of some predictions?

As previously discussed, it is possible to influence the behaviour of individuals by influencing their subjective views (Simon, 1985). Buchanan & Huczynski (2010, pp. 50) suggest that environmental determinism can be used to influence perceptions. They argue that the behaviour of an organisation and its employees is largely the result of external environmental factors acting on the organisation. Therefore, if you can manipulate these environmental factors, it may be possible to influence the behaviour of an organisation and increase the probability of a prediction.

As discussed previously, social and cultural conventions can also play a role in the behaviour of organisations. The recent media coverage of Starbucks in the United Kingdom highlighted that they paid very little corporation tax. The news was met with public outcry and after several weeks of protests and negative media reports, the organisation agreed to meet demands and offered to pay additional tax (BBC News, 2012). In this case, environmental factors (i.e. public pressure) influenced organisational behaviour.

If we consider the United Kingdom to be a collection of organisations, the current economic climate could be considered to be an environmental factor acting on the economy of the country and the organisations within it. There is a strong possibility of a sustained recession but if we can positively influence the environmental factors affecting the economy (such as the media reporting positive economic news), it might be possible to decrease the probability of these negative predictions.



BBC News (2012) Starbucks agrees to pay more corporation tax. [Online]. Available from: (Accessed: 16 January 2012).

Buchanan, D. & Huczynski, A. (2010) Organizational Behaviour. 7th Ed. London: Pearson.

Leach, J. (2004) ‘Why People ‘Freeze’ in an Emergency: Temporal and Cognitive Constraints on Survival Responses’, Aviation, Space, and Environmental Medicine, 75(6), pp. 539-542, IngentaConnect [Online]. Available from: (Accessed: 16 January 2012).

McLeod (2010) ‘Attribution Theory’, Simply Psychology [Online]. Available from: (Accessed: 15 January 2013).

McRaney, D. (2012) You Are Not So Smart. First Ed. London: OneWorld Publications.

Simon, H. (1985) ‘Human Nature in Politics: The Dialogue of Psychology with Political Science’, The American Political Science Review, 79(2), pp. 293-304 [Online]. Available from: (Accessed: 15 January 2012).

The Influence of IT on Organizational Behaviour

Buchanan and Huczynski (2010, pp.8-9) discuss the difficulties in providing a strict definition of an organization arguing that any group of like-minded individuals in pursuit of a shared goal could potentially be considered an organization. However, for the purpose of this discussion, we will consider an organization to be a legal entity such as a business or public sector body which is responsible for delivering a service.

Woman sat in front of an eighties computerUnlike other innovations in the workplace, the modern computer has only been around for a relatively short period of time and the widespread adoption of information systems and computing technology in organisations has been a relatively recent innovation (White, 2002)

The implementation of information technology systems has resulted in fundamental changes to the way organizations operate and organizational behaviour. Some of these influences can be considered positive while some can be considered to have had a detrimental impact.

Often, the benefits which are perceived when a software product is implemented are not fulfilled in the long term, as is demonstrated by the notorious failure of many organizations to successfully implement ERP systems (Chen, Law and Yang, 2009).

An example of a system where the effects of implementation have had both a positive and negative impact is the advent of electronic communication technology.

Positive Effect

Although email has existed in varying forms since the 1960’s, the implementation of email and instant messaging for all employees was a process that started in many organisation as recently as the early 2000’s.  At the time it was implemented, it was a highly sought after technology as it was only a minority of users who had access to these software tools, and the roll-out was welcomed by the majority of employees. As time has progressed, the technology is still a fundamental communication mechanism in many large companies and public bodies.

Indeed, Kock (2001) identifies that electronic communication, specifically email, has had a positive impact on communication around process improvement as everyone gets the opportunity to contribute and comments and recorded.

Negative Effect

Conversely, the impact of electronic communication has been that fewer people will pick up the phone or leave their desk to speak with a colleague, preferring instead to email or instant message a colleague, often sat in the same room as them.

This appears to be a commonly found negative effect of electronic communication. Rocco (1998) identifies that the over-use of email as a communication tool can lead to mistrust. However, Rocco goes on to describe how initial face-to-face meetings can lead to improved communication in the longer term.

Implementation of social networking has been met with similar concerns. The aspiration is that the technology will enable more efficient communication but there are concerns that the technology will distract employees from the primary goals and functions of the business and a breakdown in face to face communication just as there has been with email.



Buchanan, D. & Huczynski, A. (2010) Organizational Behaviour. 7th Ed. London: Pearson.

Chen, C., Law, C. & Yang, S. (2009) ‘Managing ERP Implementation Failure: A Project Management Perspective’, IEEE Transactions on Engineering Management, 56(1), pp. 157-170, IEEEXplore [Online]. Available from: (Accessed: 13 January 2013).

Kock, N.  (2001) ‘Compensatory adaptation to a lean medium: An action research investigation of electronic communication in process improvement groups’, IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, 44(4), pp. 267-285, IEEEXplore [Online]. Available from: (Accessed: 13 January 2013).

Rocco, E. (1998) ‘Trust breaks down in electronic contexts but can be repaired by some initial face-to-face contact’, Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems 1998, pp.496-502, ACM Digital Library [Online]. Available from: (Accessed: 13 January 2013).

White, S. (2002) A Brief History of Computing – Complete Timeline [Online]. Available from: (Accessed: 13 January 2013).

Marketing Research on the Internet

Ascending bar graph

Marketing research is a means of gathering market intelligence through a formal process to gain insight into consumer behaviour and preferences (Kotler and Armstrong, 2014, pp.128-129). Traditional marketing research has usually involved paper surveys, moderated discussions or focus groups (Calder, 1977) and while these still play a role in research, Wilson and Laskey (2003) note the rapid rise in popularity of Internet marketing research and the consideration it is a serious alternative to traditional forms of marketing research.

As Calder (1977) notes, marketing research involves the collection of quantitative (numerical) data and softer intelligence (qualitative data) for analysis and although the collection methods may have evolved, little has changed in terms of the information which is being gathered. Using the Internet to capture this information presents many opportunities but there are also challenges to relying on opinion gathered from Internet research.

Many of the perceived strengths associated with online marketing research such as the fact that it is easier to find participants and cheaper to administer appear to be unfounded (Semans, 2011). Indeed Semans asserts that online research can be more challenging than traditional research methods but there are still some strengths of using online research as a vehicle for collecting data.


Strengths of marketing research via the Internet

Reach and Demographics

Patino, Pitta and Quinones (2012) discuss the emerging importance of social media in marketing research. The main strengths of using social media are the ability to connect with an audience from a wide geographic region and a wide range of demographics which would not be possible through traditional marketing research.


At the bottom of my supermarket receipt yesterday was an invitation to complete a feedback survey about my shopping experience with an incentive to win some shopping vouchers. Had I been stopped directly in the shop, it is unlikely I would have completed the survey but five minutes to complete the survey online was convenient for me and allowed the supermarket to recruit me for their marketing research.

Ease of analysis

I have included ease of analysis as a strength as for quantitative data it is certainly easier to analyse the data directly collected through the web. Lee and Bradlow (2011) make this observation but also identify that online data collection allows for collection of data from a wide range of other sources which would not be available through offline marketing research, including through peer review sites of products and services.


Weaknesses of marketing research via the Internet

Quality of data

Lehmann, McAlister and Staelin (2011) observe the continued quest to improve the quality of data available from online marketing research, noting that even the best designed research relies on users to accurately complete the requested information. They highlight that the ease in which online surveys can be created by novices can actually be a weakness as designing surveys to capture meaningful data is a skill many lack.

Low participation rate

Poorly designed surveys can lead to low participation rates and as Fan and Yan (2010) observe, low participation rates in online surveys have been a concern for market researchers for some time. It can be attributed to a number of factors including concerns about security of personal data, poor usability of online tools and the lack of incentives to complete a survey.




Calder, B. (1977) ‘Focus Groups and the Nature of Qualitative Marketing Research’, Journal of Marketing Research, 14(3), pp. 353-364. [Online]. Available from: (Accessed: 8 March 2014).

Fan, W. & Yan, Z. (2010) ‘Factors affecting response rates of the web survey: A systematic review’, Computers in Human Behavior, 26(2), pp.132–139, ScienceDirect. [Online]. Available from: (Accessed: 8 March 2014).

Kotler, P. & Armstrong, G. (2014) Principles of Marketing, 15th Edition. London: Pearson Education Ltd.

Lee, T. & Bradlow, E. (2011) ‘Automated Marketing Research Using Online Customer Reviews’, Journal of Marketing Research, 48(5), pp.881-894, AMA. [Online]. Available from: (Accessed: 8 March 2014).

Lehmann, D., McAlister, L. & Staelin, R. (2011) ‘Sophistication in Research in Marketing’, Journal of Marketing, 75(4), pp.155-165, AMA. [Online]. Available from: (Accessed: 8 March 2014).

Patino, A., Pitta, D. & Quinones, R. (2012) ‘Social media’s emerging importance in market research’, Journal of Consumer Marketing, 29(3), pp.233-237, Emerald. [Online]. Available from: (Accessed: 8 March 2014).

Semans, D. (2011) Myth Busters Takes On Online Research. [Online]. Available from: (Accessed: 8 March 2014).

Wilson, A. & Laskey, N. (2003) ‘Internet based marketing research: a serious alternative to traditional research methods?’, Marketing Intelligence & Planning, 21(2), pp.79-84, Emerald. [Online]. Available from: (Accessed: 8 March 2014).