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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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3 Communities and Social Networks in Organizational Knowledge Communication 63


3 Communities and Social Networks in Organizational Knowledge Communication – Conceptual Framework 3.1 Organizational Knowledge Communication Interpersonal communication is the essence of organization. (WEICK 1987: 97) 3.1.1 About Theories of Organizational Communication In his seminal work, Gerhard Maletzke (1963: 18) defines communication as the mediation of meaning between creatures. The complexity and omnipresence of communication is prominently expressed in the first axiom by Watzlawick et al. (1969 (1967): 53) that one cannot not communicate. This postulate has become an established part in studies on interpersonal communication and has been widely ac- cepted as well as misunderstood by communication scientists and scholars. Based on the work of Fisher (1978), Krone et al. (1987) adopt four conceptual approaches to human communication of (1) mechanistic, (2) psychological, (3) interpretive- symbolic, and (4) systems-interaction perspectives as a framework for the study of organizational communication. As an adoption from the study of human commu- nication, these perspectives provide a suitable theoretical framework for introduc- ing the study of organizational communication with a focus on the interpersonal relationships as proposed here. The mechanistic perspective views communication “as a transmission process in which a message travels across space (a channel) [and time!] from one point to another” (Krone et al. 1987: 22). With regard to organizational communication, especially research of organizational communication networks takes the position of a mechanistic perspective: it puts its focus on the communication flows among individuals. This is also applies for a variety of network studies on organizational communication (see, e.g., Monge and Eisenberg...

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