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Using social network analysis for organisation and personal improvement

By guest blogger Sarah Jansen

A Defence man from way back, Graham Durant-Law now works at Hyperedge and talked about the idea that each organisation is made up of a formal organisation and an informal organisation. He says that the formal organisation has its place but 90% of the work gets done inside the informal organisation.

Theory

Although Graham has worked in knowledge management since 2001 and built KM systems for Defence, he has some issues with the term and the industry. His main criticism is that KM professionals don’t know what exactly they’re talking about; it’s all a bit trial and error because we haven’t played with KM theory enough. His view is that more discussion of KM theory would get the industry to a shared understanding and common meaning.

Graham believes that KM has some vocabulary issues. He went through some network science terms that he believes KM would benefit from sticking to and gave us some examples, some of which are listed below and the rest are on the actKM11 Slideshare.

Structural terms

• A node is the smallest unit in the network. Also known as a vertex or entity. They can be people, teams, whole organisations.
• A tie is a line between two nodes indicated a relationship also called an edge or link.
• A graph is a set of nodes and ties.
• A network consists of graph and additional info about nodes/ties. Also known as map.

Typical measurements of interconnectivity

• Density is the number of possible connections between nodes.
• Distance is the degrees of separation or the diameter of a network.
• Reciprocity is the number of bi-directional links expressed as a percentage.
• Centrality is the extent to which a network is organised around one or more central nodes

Organisational dynamics

Graham emphasised that there are many different roles that people fulfil in flowing information through an organisation. Some of these roles he terms brokers, providers, gatekeepers, seekers.

He emphasised the importance of quality over size of the network, and the extreme value of having a person who is a super connector. If you are lucky enough to have a super connector, one of the best things you can do is leverage them to help get the right information to the right people.

By juxtaposing a traditional organisational chart (which executives love) with a chart showing the structure of communication connections within an organisation, Graham demonstrated how these super connectors are unofficially at the centre of an organisation’s communication network. Therefore, it is hugely important to make them official as well by putting them on your knowledge and/or change management team.

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