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Social Network Toolkit Exec Summary

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  • 1. Executive summary Executive summary In the days when knowledge management organisation and had presumably not had was still thought of as comprising activities time to develop their networks. for capturing and organising content, or Consider another story from a software- creating knowledge bases and portals, the development company with offices and Institute for Knowledge Management (IKM) development sites in India, the US and conducted a survey of 40 managers in a Europe. During group meetings, there were company known for its knowledge- often people who were unaware of new management leadership. Respondents were product features or design options that were asked to reflect on a project that was being actively considered and, more impor- important to their careers and indicate tantly, had been in the product’s design where they had obtained knowledge document. As a result, meetings were critical to their success. Eighty-five per cent ineffective as people had to explain new said they received this information from features or design changes rather than other people.1 make decisions for the future. The product’s These ‘other people’ are the social lead architect decided to investigate the network: the people we are connected to patterns of communication across the and to whom we turn when we have an group. The map looked like the one shown idea, concern, problem or question. The in Figure 1. Biddy Lionel Yuri Eyal Ziv David Cliff Igor Jennifer Adar Ezra Nicholas Nicolai Joan Salomo Nanci Edwin Sean Izacnic Guillaume Dov Bob Rick Figure 1 Patterns of communication social network is not only the first place we Lines between the names of people go to when requesting knowledge, but is represent communications links. Note the also the place where we are most likely to larger, connected group on the left and two find it. But what happens if the social isolated groups on the right. This map network is inadequate? What if we do not gave the team insight into why communica- have the right connections to find the infor- tions had failed. The team immediately mation we need for crucial career events or made a plan to ensure that people would running a business? The IKM survey found be better connected and created opportu- that 15 per cent of managers who received nities for more frequent and consistent information from impersonal sources, such communications. as computer archives, the internet or KM This example is typical of the situation in databases, were relatively new to the many firms, and illustrates the value of 1
  • 2. Executive summary examining the connections that exist improve their effectiveness, competitiveness between people in organisations. The map and agility. New organisational capabilities helped the managers understand what was are focused on networking practices. Just as happening, and stimulated action to a fisherman’s livelihood depends on keeping improve the knowledge and information his nets mended, managers (especially KM flow in the company. This insight is a corner- managers) must work at keeping networks stone of the study and practice of social healthy. New practices described in this networks and knowledge management report are helping managers detect, sustain within organisations. and leverage networks to enable more This report is based on a few cross-organisational working practices, simple premises: 2 communications and collaboration. This report brings the need for these capabilities Networks matter: the new nexus of into focus, and presents some of the knowledge management is in the networking practices and tools that are network. It is where work gets done; being adopted by leading commentators Networks are everywhere: as fish and organisations. are unaware that their environment The first section of this report describes is water, we are often not conscious the trends that have converged to make that networks form our knowledge networks a matter of importance in environment. Most of the important knowledge management. Subsequent networks underlying every organisation sections discuss: are the relationships that are invisible to management; Why should managers care about Existing networks can be identified, networks in their organisations? analysed and measured: knowledge of What do managers need to know what is happening in networks can lead about networks? to action that improves individual and What knowledge-management practices organisational performance; and methods support network creation New networks can be intentionally and growth? created, grown and supported: What software tools, products and individuals, enterprises and communi- platforms support network creation, ties can reach out and create networks growth and leverage? to achieve specific purposes and How can you introduce the practice of common goals; social-network management into an Networks will be important in the future: organisation without it becoming an end organisational leadership will be based in itself and a distraction from the on a leader’s ability to gain rapid business’s purpose and goals? insights into existing and potential networks within the organisation, and Each discussion includes the experiences of take action to leverage them. pioneer practitioners in this new domain of knowledge management, most of whom Many businesses are struggling to under- have just completed a pilot project and are stand how to leverage talent, skills and at the ‘now what?’ stage of implementing experience from across the organisation to knowledge-networking practices. 2
  • 3. Executive summary Terms in context The science of networks and study of “What in the past could be taken for social networks that have led to social- granted and sometimes even minimised can networking applications; no longer be ignored or left to chance.” The evolution of knowledge manage- Laurence Prusak and Don Cohen3 ment into its third generation that builds ‘Social network’ is an academic term on collaborative infrastructures and that has slipped into the knowledge- social software developed in the management vocabulary. Outside of previous generations. knowledge management and other spe- cialised academic areas, it is not a term that These topics introduce both the context and people use with comfort. Officially, it means terminology that will be used as the report nothing more than a network of people (in goes into more detail on the development of contrast to networks of computer systems or knowledge strategies that address these railroad lines). However, to some people, social phenomena. the word ‘social’ connotes gossip, parties and getting together outside work. To keep Social capital things simple, this report uses the terms Most KM practitioners are familiar with the ‘network’ and ‘social network’ interchange- model in Figure 2. This model was first used ably. In addition, it introduces the qualified to help companies distinguish between tradi- terms ‘personal network’ and ‘organisation- tional thinking about capital as accounted al network’ to distinguish between types. I for on the corporate balance sheet (cash also talk about ‘knowledge networks’ and assets, inventory and property, for example) ‘knowledge networking’, which in some and intellectual capital. It suggests that intel- companies are more acceptable terms than lectual capital is really the sum of human, knowledge management. structural and customer capital, and that corporations need to look for methods to Social capital, networks account for (literally) the intellectual capital and third-generation KM of the enterprise. Without intellectual capital, The knowledge-management community there are no people, no relationships with is made up of practitioners who are self-aware and constantly exploring new ideas and concepts. Because the underly- ing principles of knowledge management touch so many diverse disciplines, innova- tions from different schools of thought Human Human Structural Structural have allowed knowledge management to Financial Financial continually grow and expand. The trends (value) (Value) and developments influencing the emergence of social-networking practices Customer Customer into KM include: The ongoing KM theme that social capital can be a measure of an Figure 2 Forms of intellectual capital organisation’s value; 3
  • 4. Executive summary customers, no innovation and no traditional capital, such as material assets, competitive processes.4 inventory and cash. In most respects, however, they represent what companies are Human capital: The necessary capabilities actually valued for today.7 You can often of individuals to provide solutions to sense social capital in the atmosphere of a customers; for example, the company’s core company or on its intranet bulletin boards, competency; for example. As you walk through a company Structural capital: The capabilities of the you see people smiling and cartoons on the organisation to meet market requirements; walls. You observe informal knowledge being for example, its processes; exchanged through gossip, stories and Customer capital: The value of an organisa- anecdotes, and hear engaged, purposeful tion’s relationships with the people with whom dialogue in meetings. People respect and it does business; for example, its brand. seek each other’s opinions, share what they know and trust that their contributions will As I began working with social-network be acknowledged. concepts, I returned to the models I used for From a knowledge-management developing KM practices, and realised that viewpoint, social capital reflects how there is another way to look at this classic knowledge does or does not move in an model. Consider that these three elements organisation. For example, leaders may intersect or connect through the relationships instinctively know that organisational of the people in the firm. Replace financial stovepipes or silos are unhealthy, but they value in this model with social capital and may accept them as a fact of life or a you begin to see another picture. simple communication problem that can be In their book, In Good Company, Prusak fixed with more information technology. and Cohen define social capital as, “The Knowledge-management practitioners know stock of active connections among people, that anything that impedes the flow of the trust, mutual understanding, and shared knowledge can be detrimental to the values and behaviours that bind the members business. Recall the example of the software of human networks and communities and company at the beginning of this report: make co-operative action possible.”5 absent social ties meant that critical Wayne Baker, an expert in organisational knowledge was not shared. networks who teaches the University of Prusak and Cohen emphasise four Michigan, is more explicit and personal specific areas where social capital about its value in his definition of social benefits organisations: capital. “Social capital refers to the resources available in and through our Better knowledge sharing due to personal networks. These resources… established, trust-based relationships, include information, ideas, leads, business common frames of reference and opportunities, financial capital, power and shared goals; influence, emotional support, even goodwill, Lower transaction costs because of high trust, and co-operation.”6 levels of trust and co-operative spirit Note that none of these forms of capital (both within the organisation, and (human, structural, customer or social) are as between the organisation, its customers easy to quantify as the methods for counting and partners); 4
  • 5. Executive summary Low turnover rates reduce severance, experiences and culture – will occupy a hiring and training costs, avoid more positive position in the market. discontinuities associated with frequent To investigate this proposition in the personnel changes, and maintain organisational realm, the IKM, under Rob valuable organisational knowledge; Cross’s direction, carried out research on Greater coherence of action due to social-network analysis in knowledge organisational stability and shared management in 1999. It examined what it understanding.8 would mean to be able to measure social capital and whether instruments could be Valdis Krebs, who has worked extensively placed in an organisation to detect how with organisational networks, began knowledge is flowing and how people ‘feel’ drawing diagrams of these networks in about the environment. Ultimately, it looked 1987. He applied them for the first time at whether it is possible to take the readings during a project measuring organisational from a variety of organisations and plot diversity at TRW, a defence and electronics these measures against the balance sheet of company. During that time he began the company to look for improvements on a working on methods and software for what year-to-year basis. he called organisational-network analysis (ONA). He is one of the leaders (and a Networks great teacher and mentor to many) of the The past three to four years have brought an application of network analysis to organisa- explosion of interest in the science of tional effectiveness and knowledge manage- networks of all types: computer networks ment. One of Krebs’s earliest findings was (including the internet), terrorist networks, that the engineers with the highest commit- traffic networks, network spread of diseases, ment to the organisation were those who and so on. Much of this interest has been were connected with the key information fuelled by the availability of computing flow and decision-making paths. More and resources that enable researchers to plug in better connections led to more social vast amounts of data to analyse networks. capital, higher commitment and stronger Many of the scholars have written books that individual performance and improved have crossed over into the mass market business results. following the success of Malcolm Gladwell’s The concepts of social capital and The Tipping Point.9 research on its measurement and impact, Gladwell, a writer for The New Yorker are not limited to the business, organisation- magazine, explained a number of concepts al and knowledge-management domains. It about social networks as he sought to show also applies to nations, the quality of rela- how major changes in society and culture tionships between the people of a nation can happen through a series of almost and the quality of relationships among unnoticed and seemingly inconsequential nations. It applies to corporations, industry events. To explain how ideas spread through networks and the management of relation- populations of people, he recounted some of ships through the interactions of individuals. the history behind sociological research into In this context, it should be intuitive that the social networks. He began by highlighting a firms with more social capital – more study by Dr Stanley Milgram in 1967 that relationships characterised by trust, shared was the basis for the phrase ‘six degrees of 5
  • 6. Executive summary The numbers of ties between two people Owen Sarah represent degrees: one tie is one degree. Ben and Sarah are connected by one degree, but Sarah and Emily are two degrees Emily Alex apart. Hence, Ben and Sarah have a direct tie, and Sarah and Emily an indirect tie. This is a small network, and you could Ben probably draw this by hand if you knew all the people (in fact, this is a practical way to do some simple network analysis). Chapter four, ‘Network-analysis and tools’, describes Sabrina Michael the methods and tools for collecting data, drawing maps and reviewing statistics when Figure 3 Social-network maps: Ties, nodes and degrees a network consists of a large number of people. The software involved is generically called social-network-analysis software, or separation’. The concept holds that you, I or SNA software. Chapter two, ‘Network struc- anyone on the planet is connected to tures, patterns and views’, goes into more everyone else by no more than six connec- detail about how to read and understand tions: me, somebody I know, somebody they maps. For now, it is helpful to understand know, somebody this third person knows, the two basic sources of data: surveys and and so on. The methodology of the Milgram data mining. Surveys ask people within a study, and therefore its conclusion, now clearly defined network about their relation- appear to have some inconsistencies, but the ships to other people. In Figure 3, for magic of the notion remains.10 example, Sarah has indicated in the survey Alongside the magic are a number of that she goes to Alex and Ben for advice. useful basic properties of networks, structural Surveys provide qualitative information patterns and heuristics for analysing about relationships, but can be difficult to networks that have been developed and administer in large groups. Data mining passed into some mainstream disciplines, involves the use of software with applica- like knowledge management. These tions that include social context. In e-mail, concepts come with a small number of tools for example, this social context consists of that enable practitioners to collect data the sender and recipients (direct or copied). about networks, plug the data into software As you will see in the next section, social that can perform all kinds of analysis and software and social-networking applications draw maps such as that shown in Figure 3. can provide data for analysis using social- In Figure 3, the circles represent nodes in networking tools the network: each node represents a person. Arrows between people are the ties – they Social software and show where people are connected and in social-networking applications what direction. For example, if the relation- Terminology is a source of great confusion, ships in this network represent who goes to especially between the terms ‘social whom for advice, then ties to Ben indicate software’ and ‘social-networking applica- that four people go to Ben for advice. tions’. I differentiate these terms as follows: 6
  • 7. Executive summary social software refers to software applica- Both software categories – which will be tions that foster the development of social described in more detail later – are useful networks, such as collaboration tools, and available in both organisational settings e-mail, instant messaging, weblogs (also and in everyday life. In an organisational called blogs), wikis and other tools that you setting, social software represents an are already familiar with.11 These tools help essential element of a knowledge-manage- form connections on a person-to-person ment framework that is sustained by an basis, strengthening individual relationships understanding of how people and groups and in most cases, improving the social collaborate. Social software improves capital of a group as well. Consider the connections among people and groups. extent to which you use e-mail, not just for Network-referral software, which is being business correspondence with colleagues, field tested on many public websites, can be but also to set up lunches, celebrations and introduced into an enterprise to solve other social activities. The more e-mails you specific types of knowledge-management exchange with a person, the more you problems, such as those related to expertise develop a common language, shorthand for location, contact management, relationship frequently used terms, and generally management and relationship mining. improve the ties between you and that Social-networking applications use the con- person. Multiply that by all the people in an nections themselves as a knowledge asset. organisational network and you can see Both applications accumulate proxy how social software nurtures and sustains information about connections between and social capital. among people, either overtly (as in the Social-networking applications, on the referral software) or implicitly. E-mail logs other hand, enable users to network digitally and saved or shared folders, for example, and step across the degrees of separation. are a rich source of data about who com- You may, for example, be looking for infor- municates with whom, with what frequency, mation on paperweights and want to find and (when the contents of e-mails are someone who knows something about them. searched) about what topics. As more You can search the web or your intranet to organisations and researchers become find a paperweight expert, but you know that interested in the nature and value of your conversation will be a lot easier if you networks, the silent collection, or mining, of have had an initial introduction. Social- this data grows in importance. network referral software is designed to help you find people who can introduce you to Third-generation knowledge management the people you want to meet. This software is It is become a truism among those of us based on the degrees-of-separation concept. who work in knowledge management that LinkedIn is an example of such a referral the term itself has become problematic. We tool.12 If you want to contact a person in a would rather use something else, but it has particular company on LinkedIn it will tell you become a shorthand way of identifying a how many degrees away you are from them. school of thought that is more practice than It can tell you that, for example: theory and more about applied technology than about technology itself. We work in the You know Sally, who knows Per (who real world and are constantly learning – is an expert on paperweights) from our own and each other’s experiences 7
  • 8. Executive summary – and acquiring new tools. What we like is the AOK network.13 As its facilitator, Jerry about working with knowledge management Ash, says, “Managing knowledge is not the is the learning culture, and that the princi- latest fad. It is a shift in the value of ples we apply to knowledge management in knowledge due to fundamental changes in an organisation we apply to ourselves. We political, social, economic, business and work collect ideas, try them out, share them with environments brought about by the passing of others and notice how they are transformed the industrial age and the arrival of the through sharing. And we are reflective. knowledge economy.” David Snowden, who There are many opinions on the nature of introduced the concept of complexity to the various knowledge-management gener- knowledge management, argues that KM is ations. My synthesis of these opinions leads the management of the ecology of to the first premise of this report: networks knowledge.14 Snowden also introduced the are where work gets done. term, ‘emergent knowledge management’. The first generation of knowledge man- Social-networking and knowledge- agement was heavily focused on technology. networking practices are a central focus of this Knowledge assets were primarily information current generation’s ecology of emergent resources and re-usable artefacts, such as knowledge management. That is the connec- intranets, document, databases and files. tions among people in organisations and The initial market surge in knowledge across organisational boundaries. If we say management focused on providing software that in the first generation knowledge was in to assist in managing these assets. This artefacts, and in the second it was in people, generation coincided with the introduction we need to say that in the third generation we of web-based technologies into corporate understand that knowledge is in the network. environments: intranets, content-management These generations are summarised in Table 1. systems, web-based portals, search engines When knowledge is in the network, it and so on. emerges from the interactions of units within The second generation came as the the network – individual to individual, distinction was drawn between explicit and individual to group, group to group. The tacit knowledge. As more thinkers and network is not just the social relationships, practitioners understood these differences, but organisational relationships and process improvement and organisational relationships among people, groups and disciplines started to take hold through the artefacts as well. Snowden refers to three sharing of good practice, continuous general heuristics about the knowledge improvement, reward and recognition worker in this generation: policies, change management, and commu- nities of practice. The second generation Knowledge can only be volunteered; it proved that the real knowledge of an can never be conscripted; organisation lay in its human resources. We know more than we can tell, and we The exact nature of the third generation, can tell more than we can write down; which is upon us, is still emerging from the We only know what we know when we conversations among practitioners and need to know it. theorists. Some say that it is about business transformation. One of the largest communi- In the third generation, a central idea ties of knowledge-management practitioners of knowledge management is about 8
  • 9. Executive summary Generation of KM Where knowledge ‘lives’ Type of knowledge Implications First generation Artefacts Explicit Create the infrastructure for capturing, collecting, refining and re-using artefacts Second generation Individuals Tacit Focus on collaborative behaviours and person-to-person knowledge exchange Third generation The network Emergent Provide the conditions for enabling knowledge and action to emerge Table 1 Generations of knowledge management understanding what can and cannot be may be. This is also a complexity-based managed. As you can infer from these model, as it reflects information’s constantly heuristics, it is nearly impossible to manage changing nature and the relationships what people know when they are not always between individual people at the edge and aware of it themselves. We therefore use the what is happening at the network’s core. term ‘emergence’, which comes from the If you remove the warfare connotations science of complex systems, also referred to from this concept, you find that ‘power to as complex-adaptive systems (I will use the the edge’ also resonates in the context of shorter term, ‘complex’, throughout the global, agile corporations. David report to mean a complex-adaptive system). Krackhardt, another pioneering researcher Emergence is what happens at the point in social-network analysis, summarises where two systems meet. Knowledge power as the ability to mobilise resources emerges when people connect with each and get things done. other within and across networks, and when The more networked the information networks reach touch points. and knowledge, the easier it is to move A closely related concept that is decision making – the power – to the appearing more frequently is that of people closest to the customer. The ability to network-centric warfare (NCW), and its identify potential innovations can also be companion mantra, ‘power to the edge’. shifted to the organisation’s periphery, and NCW effectively links all possible informa- people across a global enterprise can tion sources – satellite images, intelligence readily and quickly share context. As David data, global positioning information about Albers and Richard Hayes say in their supplies and equipment, mobile audio, report, Power to the Edge: Command video and computer-networked connections and Control in the Information Age: “Until to people, and so on – to provide precise quite recently, networking was too expensive global and situation awareness. By linking for us to realise the value proposition. sources of information and knowledge, the Communications technologies provided an network is the centre of the command-and- opportunity to be more robustly networked. control operation, and it is possible to move As bandwidth becomes less costly and more decision making to the edge. That is, to the widely available, we will be able to not only people closest to the situation, wherever that allow people to process information as they 9
  • 10. Executive summary see fit, but also allow multiple individuals management must focus on enabling the and organisations to have direct and conditions for knowledge to emerge. simultaneous access to information and This report examines what is possible each other. We will also be able to once you have made the connection support richer interactions between and between social-networks ideas and among individuals.”15 knowledge-management practices. Figure 4 Knowledge management in this network- shows a map of the concepts and ideas that centric environment means trusting people have emerged, are coming together again to make the right decisions when they are and changing in practice. provided with the right context. And, If, like me, you have always considered because the context is complex, it can never knowledge management a lens through be wholly known or understood. Managing which to view current business problems, then networks is about managing complexity, that you can consider organisational networks a is, being able to chart a course, provide new frame – although unfortunately it does direction and enable action at the edges of not have a fixed shape. The lens is still the network, even as the network itself is knowledge, and you continue to draw on the constantly changing. methods, tools and practices in your KM toolkit as needed. But you also have an Summary: the intersection of additional set of tools that let you examine knowledge and networks and leverage the power and knowledge that As Table 1 shows, the role of knowledge are in the networks around you. Social software Social capital KM first and second generations Organisational Knowledge- and management Emergent sciences networking knowledge practice management Social networks Social- Social- network networking “Power to analysis software the edge” Figure 4 Emergence of networking practices 10
  • 11. Executive summary Brief history of SNA and KM it internally to support IBM’s re-organisation Social-network analysis has always been a rich efforts as it moved to a services-oriented and multidisciplinary field. It began in the business model. He continued his work with the 1930s-40s with research and discoveries in consulting group and worked with Krebs to psychology, sociology and anthropology. These enhance InFlow, the mapping and measuring insights were first explored using mathematical software that Krebs created as a class project in analysis in the 1960s among a group led by 1987 while working at Toyota and taking Harrison White at Harvard University. (See courses in artificial intelligence. www.analytictech.com/networks/history.htm. For Meanwhile, academic research on social a great photo of the first symposium on the topic networks flourished. In 1998, Duncan Watts held at Dartmouth College in 1975, visit and Steven Strogatz published an article on http://eclectic.ss.uci.edu/~drwhite/Networks/MS small-world networks that brought a new group SB1975.html.) The International Network for of academics – physicists and complexity Social Network Analysis (INSNA) was founded in scientists – into the study of network dynamics. 1978 and has been holding annual conferences In 1999, Rob Cross approached Larry since 1979. Prusak with an idea for bringing the insights of David Krackhardt, Daniel Brass, Ron Burt, social networks to knowledge management. Ron Rice and Karen Stephenson were among Cross, Stephen Borgatti, who created the the first to apply network analysis to people, UCINET software, and Andrew Parker collabo- organisation and culture and to develop the rated on bringing these methods and tools to vocabulary of network types and metrics, which companies participating in the IKM. Over the is key to this report. In 1993, Stephenson, following years, Cross and Parker worked with Gerry Falkowski and Valdis Krebs worked dozens of companies who were members of the together at UCLA and then at IBM developing IKM to expand on the knowledge base of the methodology for organisational-network social-network analysis, which introduced assessment (ONA). They introduced ONA into network analysis to the broad and diverse the IBM consulting group where Falkowski used knowledge-management field. 11

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