Coordinating Expertise Among Emergent Groups Responding to Disasters
Organization Science, Vol. 18, pp. 147-161, 2007
15 Pages Posted: 4 Apr 2011
Date Written: 2007
In the aftermath of catastrophic events, when plans for organized and timely response break down, impromptu groups often emerge to provide disaster relief. Much remains to be learned about the internal dynamics of these emergent response groups whose representatives may include members from organizations with relief missions; private sector organizations offering resources; and private citizens with the information, relationships, or physical and mental stamina to help. Organizational theories have the potential to contribute to a better understanding of emergent response groups and how they efﬁciently coordinate knowledge, people, resources, tasks, and technology, thereby substantially improving disaster response for future catastrophes. We apply one organization science theory toward better understanding of these groups - transactive memory systems theory - which is a theory about knowledge coordination in groups. Our application of this theory to emergent response groups requires extending the theory in three ways: the role of expertise in task assignment, how groups function when credibility in member expertise cannot be validated, and how expertise is coordinated. By demonstrating how transactive memory systems theory can be extended to the unique operating conditions of emergent response groups, we hope to inspire organization science researchers to accept the challenge of adapting their theories to study this important problem of our time.
Keywords: emergence, tranactive memory systems, coordinating catastrophes
JEL Classification: D70
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation