Learning objective

After reading the component you will have the capability to explain what social network analysis is, why an organisation should use it and describe some basic steps for implementing SNA. It will take 45-50 minutes to go through this module including a short task. This component can serve as a stimulus for further reading and investigation of SNA implementation procedure.

Introduction

Is there any tool which can be used to examine the structure of social relationships in a group to uncover informal connections between people? When your organisation is looking for feedback from customers, which customers would you contact and why? If a manager needs to create a productive team with good flow of communication’ which employees would he/ she choose?

With whom do you discuss what is important and valued in the organisation (mission-vision)? From whom do you seek suggestions and feedback before making a decision (decision making)? With whom do you discuss ideas, innovations and better ways of getting things done (innovation)?

One such tool is Social Network Analysis (SNA), the aim of which is to help visualise the real knowledge flows within an organisation/company. SNA as an analytical technique has several applications in a broad range of areas. It has been used as an analytical tool by a range of services from intelligence services interested in identifying secret relations up to medicine, where scientists use SNA to predict the spreading of several infectious diseases.

In the context of innovation management, SNA has gained attention during the last decades because it has been proved that it can effectively identify the most important qualitative and quantitative characteristics of social groups in work environments. For organisations and innovation management teams, knowing such qualities of relationships like, quality of communication, frequency of communication or more particularly who is communicating with whom and for what reason is an important tool to justify further management decisions to better address innovation issues.

Social network analysis views social relationships in terms of nodes and ties. Nodes are the individual actors within networks and ties are the relationships between actors. Research in a number of academic and business fields has shown that social networks operate on many levels, from families up to the level of nations, and play a major role in determining the way problems are solved, organisations are run and the degree to which individuals succeed in achieving their goals1.


1 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_network

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11_4_Social_Network_Analysis.pdf

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