Communication and cooperative research centres : a social identity approach to challenges and opportunities

Michelle E. Riedlinger (2005). Communication and cooperative research centres : a social identity approach to challenges and opportunities PhD Thesis, School of English, Media Studies and Art History, The University of Queensland.

       
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Author Michelle E. Riedlinger
Thesis Title Communication and cooperative research centres : a social identity approach to challenges and opportunities
School, Centre or Institute School of English, Media Studies and Art History
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2005
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Supervisor Susan McKay
Total pages 257
Collection year 2005
Language eng
Subjects L
420199 Language Studies not elsewhere classified
751099 Communication not elsewhere classified
Formatted abstract

This project investigated the relationship between multiple group identifications and communication in Australia's Cooperative Research Centres. Although the studies are situated within theoretical approaches developed from social psychology, the thesis essentially deals with problems coming out of the communication tradition. A qualitative approach, consistent with this tradition, was used to gather and analyse the data needed for the project. This produced an enormous amount of material that was sorted and stored using QSR NUD.IST analytical software. Although other theories are considered within this thesis and could be used to complement the findings, Social Identity Theory (SIT) was the major theoretical framework used to interpret the results in this project. 

 

All studies indicated that social group processes associated with multiple identity management play a role in the perceptions of effective communication in Australian Cooperative Research Centres (CRCs). The first study in this thesis investigated communication professionals in 25 CRCs who discussed the barriers and opportunities for communication in their diverse networked organisations. A thematic analysis of these transcripts highlighted communication challenges implicating the social identifications of organisational members, and many challenges were associated with distinct structural aspects of these organisations. Opportunities for communication frequently involved features implicating social identifications, including taking advantage of existing organisational or industry identities, preventing conflicting identities from becoming salient, and promoting a collective CRC identification.

 

These findings were investigated and expanded upon in a second study with members of one Cooperative Research Centre (CRC). While reinforcing findings from the first study, Study 2 placed more emphasis on the impact of project and program identifications and perceptions of communication in the organisation. Participants particularly emphasised the need for management interest and involvement in communication, and leadership support from the CEO. They also indicated that increasing identification with the CRC through increasing the prestige of the organisation would improve communication. Low-status members of the CRC were recognised as needing extra support in intergroup communication settings. Opportunities for communication in this study involved ways of traversing group boundaries within the CRC through particular structural aspects of the organisation, encouraging intergroup communication and increasing organisational identification.

 

The multiple identifications of these members were then located and examined in relation to communication. This third study found that CRC members managed multiple identifications simultaneously and these identifications may influence their perceptions of communication under certain conditions. In many cases, participants attributed communication challenges to outgroup sources and believed communication could be improved through mechanisms that improved intergroup relations. Those with a high CRC identification provided many more opportunities for communication in the organisation than those with low CRC identifications, indicating that increasing organisational identification where possible was essential for improving communication in these organisations. This could be achieved by compensating for group status differences, developing mutual respect for groups, creating an environment conducive to constructive contact and ensuring that the values and norms of the CRC did not conflict with the values and norms of the various groups involved in the CRC. Study 3 highlighted two important factors that appeared to influence identification with the organisation. The first factor was the relationship between perceptions of the CRC as an organisation and organisational identification. The second was the role of stakeholders in the organisation and the communication activities associated with them. 

 

The relationship between perceptions of the CRC and organisational identification was investigated in two studies, Study 4 with communication professionals and Study 5 with other members of a CRC. Findings showed that perceptions of the organisation differ widely between CRC members and were not dependent on members being associated with any one organisation. Perceptions of the organisation were, however, sfrongly related to the perceived goals of the organisation, which also determined where organisational communication activities were directed. Although members' organisational identifications did not directly predict how they perceived the organisation, their organisational role and status predicted their organisational identification to some extent. Communication activities in the organisation were discussed in terms of the CRCs communication needs. These activities were perceived to be achieving the organisation's aims if they were aligned with the perceptions that members held of the organisation. 

 

The important role of external stakeholders in the CRC, and the effectiveness of communication activities with these groups were recurring themes through all the studies. A final study, Study 6, found that external stakeholders can influence they way in which communication activities are perceived and CRC member identification with the organisation. This dictated to a large extent how resources were managed within the organisation. Communication activities were focused around five major goals related to communication with stakeholders. These goals were: establishing source credibility for the organisation, facilitating constructive contact between stakeholders and researchers, identifying and managing boundary spanners, understanding and managing the differing norms and values of these group members, and raising awareness about the importance of CRC research issues. These activities all had constraints and opportunities associated with them and many of the constraints to communication were associated with the inability of CRC activities to manage external stakeholders as homogenous groups or to manage the CRC as a homogenous group. 

 

In summary, this thesis demonstrates that the main challenges and opportunities to communication in diverse networked organisations are based around the management of social identity. If the social identities of CRC members and stakeholders are identified and managed appropriately, the challenges to communication will become opportunities. The theoretical implications of this work for SIT and recommendations for improving communication in diverse networked organisations are also provided. 

Keyword Group identity
Intergroup relations
Communication in organizations
Cooperative Research Centres Program (Australia)

 
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Created: Fri, 24 Aug 2007, 18:43:12 EST