Information Seeking: An Organizational Dilemma

By J. David Johnson | Go to book overview
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FOUR
INFORMATION CARRIERS: A FOCUS ON CHANNEL SELECTION AND USAGE

Developments in communication technology have made the modern organization possible. They have permitted the geographic dispersion of organizations across the world and the development of organizations of enormous size. But these developments in organizations over the last 150 years have also meant that the possibilities for face-to-face interactions have decreased, and that decision making, messages, and action are often separated from sources of information. As a result, the common core of meanings in organizations has been reduced, so that only simple messages (e.g., numbers in MIS reports) are commonly understood. In short, technology has had an enormous impact on communication in organizations historically, and this impact is accelerating with the development of new electronic forms of communication (e.g., e-mail). These trends have resulted in considerable research and theoretical interest in channel selection and use.

Nohria and Eccles ( 1992) suggest that several factors related to new technologies make entirely new organizational forms, such as networked organizations, possible. First, they increase the possibilities for control and decrease the need for vertical processing (e.g., condensation) of information ( Galbraith, 1995). Second, new technologies facilitate communication across time and space. Third, they increase external communication, blurring traditional lines of authority within the firm. A professional in an organization is as likely (if not more likely) to seek answers to questions from professionals outside the organization as from his/her supervisor within it. Somewhat relatedly, easier access to top management through e-mail increasingly makes middle-management intermediaries superfluous ( Contractor & Eisenberg, 1990). Fourth, information technologies enhance flexibility within the firm by decreasing the reliance on particular individuals for specialized information. Computer-

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