Regardless of content, the email patterns inside organisations may be able to predict approaching crises. This is the conclusion of a study looking at how the communication between Enron employees changed as the company approached its 2001 bankrupcy.
[Researchers] expected communication networks to change during moments of crisis. Yet the researchers found that the biggest changes actually happened around a month before. For example, the number of active email cliques, defined as groups in which every member has had direct email contact with every other member, jumped from 100 to almost 800 around a month before [Enron’s] December 2001 collapse. Messages were also increasingly exchanged within these groups and not shared with other employees.
[Ronaldo] Menezes thinks he and [Ben] Collingsworth may have identified a characteristic change that occurs as stress builds within a company: employees start talking directly to people they feel comfortable with, and stop sharing information more widely.
As other researchers in this area have suggested, such shifts in communication patterns “could be used as an early warning sign of growing discontent within an organisation”.
via Mind Hacks