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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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4 Social Networks and the Generation of Innovations 103


4 Social Networks and the Generation of Innovations – Theoretical and Empirical Relevance 4.1 The Generation of Innovations in the Knowledge Society A great scientist, when he was once asked how he managed to hit upon so much that was new, replied: “By keeping on thinking about it”. (MUSIL 1965: 128) 4.1.1 The Generation of Innovation and R&D In the literature, a variety of definitions of the term “innovation” can be found. Van der Kooy (1988), for example, identified 76 definitions of innovation (as cited by Biemans 1992: 6-7). Following Zaltman et al. (1973: 7-9), innovation refers to three different concepts: (1) the process of developing a new item, (2) the process of adopting the new item, and (3) the new item itself. While the first two concepts describe innovation as a process, the third perspective defines innovation as the result of a process. In the latter case, innovation is mostly viewed from the per- spective of the adopter; for instance, Zaltman et al. (1973: 10) define an innovation as “any idea, practice or material artifact perceived to be new by the relevant unit of adoption”, or following Rogers (1983: 11), an innovation is “an idea, practice, or object that is perceived as new by an individual or other unit of adoption” (see also Rogers and Shoemaker 1971: 19; Rogers and Agarwala-Rogers 1976: 150). Furthermore, different classifications of innovations can be found in the literature. Knight (1967: 482), for example, distinguishes between (1) product or service innovations, (2) process innovations,...

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