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Leveraging Knowledge Communication for Innovation

Framework, Methods and Applications of Social Network Analysis in Research and Development


Tobias Müller-Prothmann

The paradigm of social network analysis (SNA) is widely recognized as a potential approach to analyze, evaluate, and influence communication processes. The author argues that SNA proves useful as a theoretical concept and as a practical tool for knowledge communication in research and development (R&D). The context of innovative knowledge generation in organizational R&D environments is introduced very broadly with reference to the existing literature. The pragmatic approach of networks is outlined as a powerful concept to grasp the social relationships between individuals as well as between social aggregates for conceptual and analytical purposes. Based on three case studies, methods of SNA are simplified and illustrated according to their basic steps to meet practical needs and show their usefulness for business practice. Moreover, the book provides examples for interventions and follow-up activities to improve processes of organizational knowledge communication based on SNA.


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1 Introduction 1


.1 Goal Informal communication of knowledge is a critical factor for the success and failure of organizations. Recently, the importance of knowledge in organizational environments has been widely subject to research, strategies, solutions and discus- sions of what is known as “knowledge management”. With its initial emergence in the late 1980s, knowledge management has become a buzz phrase in the late 1990s. After the hype about knowledge management, the discussions have slowed down during the last years. Not only did the question arise, whether knowledge can be actually managed, but doubt has been cast on simplistic approaches, tech- nical solutions and the contribution of knowledge management to the return on investment. This slow down provides the opportunity to take a closer look at the role and processes of knowledge in organizations, to undertake a more detailed analysis, and to offer more complex and (hopefully) more suitable approaches to deal with them. In this work, a close focus is put on the processes of knowledge generation through knowledge communication within and between organizations. Studies into the informal structures within and between organizations from a network perspective are not a new invention. At the time the author started his re- search on methods and approaches to adopt social network analysis for knowledge management, literature and studies on this topic were rare, although discussed with other researchers and practitioners, publications on this subject were hardly to be found. Recently, social network analysis has become more widely recognized as a potential method to analyze,...

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