Adaptive Structuration Theory Explained


Adaptive Structuration Theory is a theory about group communication. Developed by M. Scott Poole, it takes a critical look at the linear models of communication. It believes that group dynamics are too complicated to be reduced to a predictable chain of events because group members seek to affect outcomes intentionally. This may be through adapting rules or resources in order for a goal to be accomplished.

In the modern business world, the Adaptive Structuration Theory is used as an approach to study how information technologies can affect organizational change. By looking at communicating structures, it becomes possible to determine how people will interact with technology and create actions based on the information they receive.

Adaptive Structuration Theory Focuses on Social Interactions

Humans base many of their decisions for activity off their social structures. For this reason, Adaptive Structuration Theory focuses on the social rules, resources, and structures that are created by institutions and technology today. Because social behaviors and technology are evolving and becoming more intertwined, each is shaping the other and this is creating the foundation for group decisions.

This creates 7 propositions that are the foundation of this communication theory.

1. Information technologies provide a social structure that can be described by its features, spirit, and intent. It encourages interaction by offering an interface for source materials, such as a product manual, user observations, or public consumer reviews.

2. The structures of information technologies vary based on the task at hand, the environment, and other contingencies that may be in place. The complexity of the task formalizes the social connections and encourages communication.

3. New sources of structure emerge when the information technology, task structures, and the environment are correctly applied when social interactions are taking place.

4. Group interactions that occur as rules and resources are appropriated will also give rise to new social structures. This also provides the potential of reproducing the group interaction in the future.

5. Group decisions will vary based on the information technology appropriations that take place.

6. Information technology appropriations are variable, dependent upon the internal system of the group.

7. Desired outcomes will be achieved when all of the sources of social structure, appropriation, and decision-making are able to fit the task that must be completed.

Adaptive Structuration Theory Can Be Implemented at Any Level

Group communication may occur at the micro-level, an institutional level, or a global level. The processes that are in place for this communication remain the same, allowing each level to implement the concepts involved in virtually the same way.
It is the outcomes of each level that tend to be different when looking at the Adaptive Structuration Theory.

At the micro-level, group communication tends to look at individual processes, procedures, and outcomes. The goal is to achieve a specific result by a specific individual.

At the institutional level, you have several sub-groups that help to create consistent patterns of productivity across teams, user types, and organizations. Technology is used to provide each sub-group with the opportunity to evolve in a way that best supports the overall mission that is being used as a guiding force.

For the global level, the theory is applied to the course of a meeting, a series of meetings, or other events that may take place. This allows the social structures of the group to be used as a way to absorb the information that has been presented, disseminate it with accuracy, and do so with relative speed.

What Are the Strengths of Adaptive Structuration Theory?

The primary strength of this theory is that it helps groups be able to facilitate between differences that may be in play. It allows each group to accurately communicate the benefits of each idea in real-time so that a potential compromise or understanding can be reached.

This theory also accounts for the structural potential that modern technology can provide. At the same time, it allows for each level to understand what the impacts of that technology will be so that communication can still be precise.

It is also a theory that allows groups to see how they organize themselves, providing the foundation that may be needed for a specific outcome or an organizational change.

Adaptive Structuration Theory is a complex process that can be difficult and confusing. It is a theory that is not grounded in ethical assumptions, but it does help a group be able to understand its own structure so that a specific outcome can be achieved.