Social network analysis

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a tool to visually represent and mathematically understand the characteristics of social networks, which consist of nodes (i.e. humans, groups, organizations), their mutual relationships (i.e. direction of knowledge flows, personal/professional interactions) and sometimes the frequency of interaction within the relationship.


In an organizational context, the ‘nodes’ in a social network analysis represent people, and their ‘relationships’ might be relations to subjects (e.g. ‘customer needs’) that the ‘nodes’ discuss, or might be a physical activity (e.g. ‘are in contact with as part of normal work’). Often, the ‘relationship’ between two people is further described by a frequency, indicating how often the relationship is active.

Social network analysis can document how knowledge is currently shared within the organization and help identify simple initiatives that often lead to a dramatic increase in knowledge sharing. Social network analysis can also help managers to understand how knowledge enters and flows within an organization. It can also identify pools of knowledge within the organization and can document how accessible it is to others.

Social network analysis can provide useful insights into the internal operation of a social network:

  • the size of the network
  • role comoposition (types of members in the network, i.e. employees, external professionals, retirees)
  • the level of interconnectedness among members (i.e. loose groups, close 'cliques', structural holes between groups)
  • the multiplexity of relationships (degree to which interaction on personal and professional level are tied together)
  • importance of individual nodes (the number of direct ties to others)
  • key interconnecting nodes between sub-groups, also called 'brokers' or 'bridges
  • activity of members

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Knowledge network