From little things big things grow*

Sheena Leek, Louise Canning, Catherine Sutton-Brady

Research output: Contribution to conference (unpublished)Paperpeer-review


Network change and relationship development are the cornerstone of research in a B2B context. In terms of relationship development, the area of relationship dissolution has been extensively investigated by IMP researchers (Havila & Medlin; 2012; Halinen & Tahtinen, 2002). In trying to understand why relationships are terminated, most studies have looked at major incidents and their negative impact on relationships and ultimately on the network. While it is clear from previous research that major incidents can lead to relationship termination, we feel minor incidents and the accumulation of those over time have been somewhat ignored in the literature. Arthur Conan Doyle in the Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes said that “It has long been an axiom of mine that the little things are infinitely the most important”. With the importance of little things in mind, in this paper we aim to gain an understanding of the impact of a series of little things on relationships and networks. In doing so, we seek to determine whether relationships fully recover from little events, or alternatively, if repeated, minor negative incidents erode trust, commitment etc. over time. For example if a supplier is late delivering once that might be acceptable, but three or four times may begin to damage the relationship. The paper also considers the extent of damage incurred each time and whether the impact of minor incidents is amplified as they accumulate over time. In examining minor events, we explore the relevance of criticality and the effect of small incidents on a relationship as perceived by different parties, as well as the extent to which any relationship damage caused by such negative incidents can be repaired. This work-in-progress paper presents a preliminary review of literature, touching on factors which contribute to relationship ending, the dissolution process and events. From this we suggest areas for further development.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2016
EventIMP Asia - University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa
Duration: 4 Dec 20167 Dec 2016


ConferenceIMP Asia
Country/TerritorySouth Africa
CityCape Town


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