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Interdependence describes relationships in which members of the group are mutually dependent on the others. This concept differs from a dependent relationship, where some members are dependent and some are not.
In an interdependent relationship, participants may be emotionally, economically, ecologically and/or morally reliant on and responsible to each other. An interdependent relationship can arise between two or more cooperative autonomous participants (e.g. - co-op). Some people advocate freedom or independence as the ultimate good; others do the same with devotion to one's family, community, or society. Interdependence can be a common ground between these aspirations.
Authors and leaders have written and spoken about interdependence throughout history, including Karl Marx, Mahatma Gandhi, Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Stephen Covey. Karl Marx first used the term interdependence in the Communist Manifesto (1848) in describing the universal interdependence of nations in comparison to the old local and national seclusion of independence and self-sufficiency.
The various classical civilizations over the ages established vast trading networks with one another. The exchange of goods and ideas occurred from the time of the early Indian Empire on the Indus River, all the way up to the Roman Empire on the Mediterranean. In some cases, this exchange was very one sided, but remain mutually beneficial despite this.
Today, international interdependence is often said to be strong and to have increased. International trade is taken to be an indicator of interdependence, and its high and, with some interruptions, rapidly growing values are accepted as evidence of the increasing interdependence of nations. Between 1820 and 1992, world population increased 5-fold, income per head 8-fold, world income 40-fold, and world trade 540-fold. Sometimes international financial flows are taken as the measure of interdependence.
International disintegration is entirely consistent with a high degree of international interdependence. For interdependence exists when one country by unilateral action can inflict harm on (or provide benefits to) other countries. Competitive protectionism, devaluation, deflation, or pollution of the air and sea beyond national boundaries are instances.
Interdependence is measured by the costs of severing the relationship (or the benefits of developing it). The higher the costs to one country, the greater is the degree of dependence of that country. If a small country benefits more from the international division of labor than a large country, its dependence is greater. If both partners to a transaction were to incur high costs from severing economic links, there would be interdependence.
In the Ethics of care approach to morality, Nel Noddings emphasises the interdependence of people. She saw it as a hidden fact which is often unseen or not discussed in a male dominated, justice and judgment based approach to ethics. Carol Gilligan was an early proponent of the view that interdependence rather than rules underlay the basis of morality
There is a view that computer technology has allowed greater communication, interaction and interdependence. It is thought that this has massively helped the introduction and start up of new ideas and enterprises. This is supported by the work of Stephen Covey. Covey maintains that we function best as innovators when we recognise, and work towards, the role of interdependence.
In business people and departments must rely on one another to share information, financial resources, equipment and more, making interpersonal communication highly valuable to a company and oneself in order for a successful outcome.
Pooled interdependence is the lowest form of interdependence resulting in the least amount of conflict. Departments do not directly depend or interact with one another, however they do draw resources from a shared source. Every separate department contributes to an overall goal, the outputs of each department are then pooled at an organizational level. Although the success and failure of each department do not directly affect one another, it does affect the overall success of the company therefore indirectly affecting one another. Pooled interdependence requires standardization in rules and operating procedures. An example of pooled interdependence is the clothing retail store The Gap. Each store acts as its own separate department with its own resources (operating budget, staff, etc.) While each store rarely interacts with one another, the success or failure of each store affects the company overall, which then affects each individual store.
Sequential interdependence is an asymmetrical chain of one way interactions. The output of one unit become the input for another unit. There is an increase in communication increasing the potential for conflict. People in the early part of the chain would remain more independent but the people in the latter part of the chain would be highly dependent on the first part. A major concern would be performance variability in the first part of the chain because it has a direct effect on the productivity of the later parts. Managing an environment with sequential interdependence would require adaptive planning and scheduling. An example of sequential interdependence would be Nissan. The engine and other separate parts of the car are assembled in separate plants and then are shipped to one site to build the final product. If the engine plant is running behind and not shipped in time, it affects the final product being completed.
Reciprocal interdependence has the highest potential for conflict because it requires the most amount of communication having the output and input of activities flow both ways between units. This network of two way relationships requires departmental dependency to create a successful outcome. The direct interaction between co-workers can cause a tight interconnection causing high level of productivity or can cause a high level of conflict. Managing a reciprocal interdependent work environment would require thorough constant information sharing. An example would be the Marriott hotel. The front desk is dependent on housekeeping to provide clean rooms to guests when they arrive and housekeeping is dependent on the front desk to share the information on what rooms need to be cleaned. .
Comprehensive interdependence is an even tighter network of reciprocal interdependence. The potential for conflicts is very high due to the complexity of the interdependence. With an increase in frequent and intense communication, and a greater duration of time spent with one another, a difference in opinions or goals is very likely. The loss or addition of a team member can greatly affect the performance of the group. An example would be a brand management firm that depends on the all the departments for information. The market research department would need to work with product design as well as the sales department and vice versa to achieve effective and efficient productivity.
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