Inaugural lecture Jörg Raab: How (not) to use organizational networks

Our societies have a large number and variety of organizations that increasingly collaborate in the production of goods and services. Although these organizational networks are created to more effectively achieve common goals or to make processes more efficient, they unintentionally add more complexity. In his inaugural lecture on Friday, May 31st, Jörg Raab (Tilburg University) offers guidance on how to deal with this paradox.

Organizations are increasingly and more frequently connected with each other. Consider the more than 200 companies worldwide involved in the production of Apple’s iPhones, or the many organizations in healthcare that collaborate to provide patient care. This contributes to the increasing complexity of society, as stated by Jörg Raab : "Networks of organizations create a complex web of increasing interdependencies between countries, regions, organizations, teams, and people. Although these networks are formed to tackle complex challenges, they often unintentionally make the situation more complex. This is because an additional layer of organization is created, which is very challenging for management. The ongoing struggle against drug-related crime in the Netherlands, for instance, demonstrates this well, where organizations such as the police, ministries, customs, tax authorities, and port administrations are required to collaborate both nationally and internationally."

Dealing with complexity in and due to organizational networks

Organizational networks are an emerging phenomenon. Since more organizational networks are likely to arise in the future, it is important to consider how to prevent increased complexity and problems in the future. In his inaugural lecture, Raab outlines several conditions that well-functioning and sustainable organizational networks must meet, including:

  1. Deploy organizational networks only when necessary: to address complex or persistent problems that cannot be solved by the market, by one or two organizations, or where collaborations between multiple companies provide significant added value over what individual organizations can achieve.
  2. Design an appropriate and as simple as possible governance structure that is flexible enough to continuously adapt to changing circumstances and new participants in a network.

In his future research, Raab aims to expand knowledge in this field to contribute to the development of an organizational theory for networks. He also seeks to connect with practice, including through a joint research project with the municipal administration of Tilburg, to reduce the influx of young people into drug-related crime in Tilburg North.

    About Jörg Raab

    Professor of Inter-organizational Networks

    Jörg Raab is a Professor of Interorganizational Networks at the Department of Organization Studies at Tilburg University. After obtaining his PhD in 2000, he worked as a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Konstanz in Germany and the University of Arizona, USA, and as an Assistant Professor at the University of Konstanz.

    He joined Tilburg University in 2004 as an Assistant Professor and was promoted to Associate Professor in 2015 and to full professor in 2023. He also served as Academic Director of the Bachelor’s and Master’s programs in Organization and Management Studies and the Bachelor’s track Global Management of Social Issues. Since April 1, 2023, he has been the Head of the Department of Organization Studies.

    His research primarily focuses on intraand interorganizational relationships and networks. Currently, he is involved in various research projects on the governance, management, and effectiveness of purposeful networks, as well as in a project on supervision in and of organizational networks, called EISON. His research has been published in a wide range of academic journals.

    Additionally, he has initiated a joint research project with the municipal administration of Tilburg, in which he will follow and advise the "Prevention with Authority" project over the next five years, with the aim of reducing the influx of young people into drug-related crime in Tilburg North. He is also involved in applied research in Tilburg North and West as part of the Regional Deal, mapping the organizational network structure of poverty policy and contributing to the design of interventions to improve the governance of these networks. In the coming years, Jörg, in collaboration with international colleagues, will conduct comparative research on the governance of purposeful networks in multiple countries in the social and environmental domains.