Trade show networks, trust and organizational learning: the effect of network ties

Harriette Bettis-Outland*, Roberto Mora Cortez, Wesley J. Johnston

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Purpose: This paper aims to evaluate the behavior of micro and macro business networks in a trade show context. The following questions are addressed: How do business networks impact organizational learning at trade shows? Can relational ties between networks influence organizational learning? Does trust play a role between different network types and organizational learning? Design/methodology/approach: The theoretical framework for this research is based on the broad spectrum of social exchange theory (Cropanzano and Mitchell, 2005; Foa and Foa, 1974, 1980; Kelley and Thibault, 1978; Kelley, 1997). Social exchange theory has several different interpretations; one common view of this theory involves a series of interactions that result in obligations for the participating members (Emerson, 1976; Cropanzano and Mitchell, 2005). This model extends the Levin and Cross (2004) model presented in their article, “strength of weak ties you can trust: the mediating role of trust in effective knowledge transfer”. Findings: This paper is a review and synthesis of trade show, trust, organizational learning and business network literature. This conceptual paper concludes with eight propositions, which delve into connections between micro and macro networks, strong and weak ties in these networks and the effect on organizational learning. Trust is the mediating variable between networks and organizational learning. High levels of trust could change the learning approach (adaptive, generative or transformative) of the different networks. Research limitations/implications: The propositions integrate extant research on trade shows and will guide future research regarding the relationship between types of business networks, trust and organizational learning. Practical implications: This conceptual paper looks at trade shows from a network perspective; specifically, how do trade show networks impact organizational learning. Trade show participation results in different approaches to organizational learning, which can be modified based on the level of trust that exists between network members. Trade show participation enables both adaptive and generative learning. However, atypical interactions between business networks occasionally produce transformative learning. Originality/value: This conceptual paper offers an innovative approach to trade show research by analyzing the relationship between trade shows and organizational learning from a network perspective, using trust as the mediating variable.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Business and Industrial Marketing
Issue number12
Pages (from-to)2165-2175
Publication statusPublished - 23. Nov 2021


  • Adaptive
  • Generative
  • Micro/macro networks
  • Organizational learning
  • Trade shows
  • Transformative
  • Trust


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