Abstract for: How Partnership Behaviour Evolves in Networks: Path Dependency, Social Figuration and Life Events

Networks have become the dominant life form in many organizational settings. Most studies of relationships in networks focus on the dyadic interaction between two agents. However, work on enactment, sensemaking, path dependency, and social figuration processes (e.g. by Weick and Elias) suggests complex networks cannot be exclusively understood in terms of dyadic relationships. This paper therefore explores, first, whether emergent processes of enactment and sensemaking in large networks can be represented and simulated in an agent-based model; and second, what can be learned from simulation results obtained with this type of model. We develop an agent-based model of a two-tiered supply network of ten firms with heterogeneous dispositions towards partnership. This model serves to explore the interaction between disposition, sensemaking and behaviour in a network setting. The simulation results exhibit strong path dependency effects and capture, in a highly stylised manner, the emergent process of enactment and retrospective sensemaking. An important finding is that path dependency effects occur in response to life events (e.g. a calamity disrupting the flow of products). Our findings also suggest that inner dispositions may not determine the actual behaviour in complex and turbulent (supply) networks. This raises questions regarding network research that exclusively draws on cross-sectional data.