Social Network Analysis

Brief Description:

"Social network analysis is the mapping and measuring of relationships and flows between people, groups, organisations, computers or other information/knowledge processing entities." (Valdis Krebs, 2002). Social Network Analysis (SNA) is a method for visualizing our people and connection power, leading us to identify how we can best interact to share knowledge.

Example Applications:

  • Visualize relationships within and outside of the organization.
  • Facilitate identification of who knows who and who might know what - teams and individuals playing central roles - thought leaders, key knowledge brokers, experts, etc.
  • Identify isolated teams or individuals and knowledge bottlenecks.
  • Strategically work to improve knowledge flows.
  • Accelerate the flow of knowledge and information across functional and organisational boundaries.
  • Improve the effectiveness of formal and informal communication channels.
  • Raise awareness of the importance of informal networks.

Full Description

From the UK's NHS KM Library: "In the context of knowledge management, social network analysis (SNA) enables relationships between people to be mapped in order to identity knowledge flows: who do people seek information and knowledge from? Who do they share their information and knowledge with? In contrast to an organisation chart which shows formal relationships - who works where and who reports to whom, a social network analysis chart shows informal relationships - who knows who and who shares information and knowledge with who. It therefore allows managers to visualise and understand the many relationships that can either facilitate or impede knowledge creation and sharing. Because these relationships are normally invisible, SNA is sometimes referred to as an 'organisational x-ray' - showing the real networks that operate underneath the surface organisational structure."

"The process of social network analysis typically involves the use of questionnaires and/or interviews to gather information about the relationships between a defined group or network of people. The responses gathered are then mapped using a software tool specifically designed for the purpose (see Resources and References below for examples). This data gathering and analysis process provides a baseline against which you can then plan and prioritise the appropriate changes and interventions to improve the social connections and knowledge flows within the group or network."

"Key stages of the process will typically include:
  • Identifying the network of people to be analysed (e.g. team, workgroup, department).
  • Gathering background information - interviewing managers and key staff to understand the specific needs and problems.
  • Clarifying objectives, defining the scope of the analysis and agreeing on the level of reporting required.
  • Formulating hypotheses and questions.
  • Developing the survey methodology and designing the questionnaire.
  • Surveying the individuals in the network to identify the relationships and knowledge flows between them.
  • Use a software mapping tool to visually map out the network.
  • Reviewing the map and the problems and opportunities highlighted using interviews and/or workshops.
  • Designing and implementing actions to bring about desired changes.
  • Mapping the network again after a suitable period of time."

Informal Face to Face Network Mapping

To highlight the value of our social networks, at a face to face gathering create an informal map using Post-it notes on a large piece of paper. Ask participants to write their names on Post-it notes and put them on the map; then, have them draw relationships lines to other people they know. As a second layer, have them add another name of a key knowledge resource they know - in a different color - and add it to the map. Then others can see how they can connect with these new knowledge resources through the people they already know.

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