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The “black box” of business

Where is it exactly – within any true enterprise – that decisions become fact and, even before that, where is that (virtual) place where the enterprise takes shape, grows, acts and operates? First of all, of course, we need an entrepreneur, but that alone is not enough, Because the businesses that become thriving enterprises that generate jobs and wellbeing are made up of individuals who interact with each other, who know each other, who share a certain unity of intent and who act based on a shared plan. Therefore, in order to understand better, we must first understand that magical moment in a business undertaking that enables the business to progress and to thrive.

This is what André van Hoorn, at the University of Groningen (Faculty of Economics & Business), has sought to do in his study entitled “Trust and management: Explaining cross-national differences in work autonomy”, a sort of exploration (in the space of just 22 pages) of what the author calls the “black box” of business in an attempt to understand “what goes on in firms in terms of management of their operations”. Van Hoorn looks deep into that place that is the true core of the business and reflects on the work of a business and its autonomy as “a key aspect of firm organization”. Empirically, van Hoorn tests the hypothesis that “societal trust” influences the level of work autonomy that a company grants to its employees. The study is based on a survey of individuals in 30 countries (ranging from the most economically advanced down to those that are still developing) and, according to the author, shows a positive correlation between the organisation of employee relations, the culture of enterprise, work autonomy and results.  At the end of his report, van Hoorn writes, “We have sought to open the black box of how firms manage their operations, showing that trust fosters the level of autonomy that firms grant to their workers.” This is the proof – as if proof were even needed – that an enterprise does not just come from a calculated idea, but from a shared passion for that idea.

Trust and management: Explaining cross-national differences in work autonomy  

André van Hoorn 

University of Groningen