Social Network Analysis: A Practical Method to Improve Knowledge Sharing
HANDS-ON KNOWLEDGE CO-CREATION AND SHARING; PRACTIVAL METHODS AND TECHNIQUES, A. S. Kazi, L. Wohlfahrt, P. Wolf, eds., pp. 219-233, Knowledge Board, Stuttgart, 2007.
15 Pages Posted: 5 Sep 2009
Date Written: July 2, 2007
Social network analysis is a sociological paradigm to analyse structural patterns of social relationships. It provides a set of methods and measures to identify, visualise, and analyse the informal personal networks within and between organisations. Thus, social network analysis provides a systematic method to identify, examine and support processes of knowledge sharing in social networks. According to the literature, organisations that develop networks both internal and external to their organisation are supposed to be able to deal with knowledge more effectively. Discussions of the role of networks in knowledge management primarily stress the importance of informal networks (as opposed to formalised networks). Furthermore, networks are often emphasised as result of an activity, i.e. “networking”. Social network analysis can help support knowledge sharing by focusing on various core applications of knowledge management, for example: identification of personal expertise and knowledge; research into the transfer and sustainable conservation of tacit knowledge; and discovery of opportunities to improve communication processes and efficiency. While social network analysis as a method of academic research remains mostly on a descriptive level, its use and application as a knowledge management tool goes beyond a merely descriptiveanalytical focus. Thus, the steps and applications outlined below provide suggestions for practical interventions and follow-up activities to influence network actors, their relationships, and network structure to improve knowledge sharing between individuals, groups, and organisational units or whole organisations. Especially with regard to processes of inter-organisational knowledge community building, social network analysis provides a powerful tool. Based on the insights of a social network analysis, interventions can be derived to facilitate communication processes and community activities, to strengthen boundary-spanning knowledge exchange and to increase the informal inter-organisational relationships for better knowledge sharing. Therefore, social network analysis should become an integral method of organisational design and strategy to support processes of inter-organisational community building, communication and knowledge sharing.
Keywords: communities, knowledge management, innovation, social network analysis
JEL Classification: O32, L23, M1
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation