Inside Social Network AnalysisEhrlich and Carboni
Most network analysts cite Joseph Moreno’s introduction of the tools and methods of sociometry, in 1934 as the year in which the formal analysis of social networks began.SNA became much more popular with researchers in the early 1970s when advancesin computer technology made it possible to study large groups. Within the last tenyears, SNA has risen to prominence in a number of fields, including organizationalbehavior, anthropology, sociology, and medicine.Most recently, SNA has become an important tool for organizational consultantsseeking to understand the connection between patterns of interactions and businessoutcomes such as job performance, job satisfaction, adoption of new ideas ortechnologies, likelihood of information getting shared, and creation of new ideas.Together, these elements can be analyzed to reveal the social network and determineif it is meeting the business needs of the group. The outcome of an SNA lets us seewhere collaboration is breaking down, where talent and expertise could be betterleveraged, where decisions are getting bogged down, and where opportunities fordiffusion and innovation are being lost. The data give leaders the picture they needto create a set of remedial actions for individuals and leaders to improveproductivity, efficiency and innovation. These actions include modifying roles andresponsibilities to foster more effective patterns of communication, methods forimproving trust, better use of technology to reach others, re-alignment of rewardsand incentive programs.
How is a Social Network Analysis different?
SNA differs from conventional approaches to business problems in one veryimportant way: SNA assumes that
people are all interdependent
. This assumption isradically different from traditional research approaches which assume that whatpeople do, think, and feel is independent of who they know.The focus on interdependence means that SNA can ask -- and answer -- questionssuch as:
Is Sales effectively communicating with Marketing to share and coordinateinformation about the customer?
When two companies or organizations merge, how can management usethe informal network to spread important messages?
Are decisions in a distributed software development team being made andcarried out efficiently or are one or more people acting as bottlenecks?
In R&D group, are there enough people bringing in ideas from outside andare those ideas being acted upon?Many traditional statistical techniques are based on the assumption of independence.For this reason, traditional statistics, such as comparing the means of two groups,cannot be conducted on interdependent data. To deal with this problem, SNA hasdeveloped a set of SNA-specific statistics such ascentralityanddensitythat provide
measures of interdependence