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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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5 Social Network Analysis as a Knowledge Management Tool 145


5 Social Network Analysis as a Knowledge Management Tool – Methods and Applications 5.1 Introduction to Social Network Analysis Homo sapiens are about pattern recognition [. . . ]. Both a gift and a trap. (GIBSON 2004 (2003): 23) 5.1.1 About the Approach of Network Analysis Network analysis, as understood for our purposes, is a method to analyze peo- ple and their relationships. This approach aims at the description of structures and positions from a network perspective. This kind of network research describes re- lationships of interactions between network members, known as “actors”,52 like individuals or organizations through precise and subtle analysis that tries to avoid simplifications. This approach remains on a merely descriptive level (see also sec- tion 4.6.3). In the case studies presented here, network analysis is used in the descriptive-analytical tradition of this kind of approach. Nevertheless, the me- thodical steps and applications presented below go beyond a merely descriptive position of a neutral passive observer in that they provide suggestions for practical interventions and follow-up activities to influence network actors, their relation- ships, and network structure to improve communication of knowledge within and between individuals and organizations. 5.1.2 Social Network Analysis as a Methodical Instrument The method of social network analysis has become an established method of research in social sciences during the late 1970s and early 1980s, especially due to the foundation of the International Society of Social Network Analysis (INSNA) in 1978 by Barry Wellman and its journals “Connections” and “Social Networks”, dedicated to social network analysis, as...

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