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Two researchers with the Florida Institute of Technology in Melbourne studied records of email messages sent by 150 top staff members at Enron in the company’s last year and a half and found some interesting clues about how people in an organization communicate during a crisis.

Ben Collingsworth and Ronaldo Menezes looked at the logs obtained by federal investigators of over 500,000 emails sent to 15,000 people before the 2001 collapse of Enron.

They studied key events, such as the August 2001 resignation of CEO Jeffrey Skilling by looking at the groups who exchanged email. They didn’t look at the email contents.

The researchers looked for changes in the communication system during crises, but discovered that the most significant changes happened about a month before. The number of groups in which every member has direct email contact with every other member (which the researchers called email cliques) increased from 100 to about 800 one month before Enron’s collapse.

They theorized that as stress builds in a company, employees start communicating with people with whom they feel comfortable and stop sharing information on a wider basis.

Collingsworth and Menezes presented their research at the International Workshop on Complex Networks in Catania Italy.

For the original article, see here.

Thanks to Juha-Matti Laurio for drawing this one to our attention.

Tom Kelchner