The IBM Institute for Business Value has successfully tested the application of network theorie methods to Humen Resources Management by analysing the extraction and production division of a large oil company. The company was mainly interested in defining the capacity of creating and sharing knowledge and information among the members of the devision.

Below we have pasted the first paragraphs of Rob Cross’, Andrew Parker’s and Stephen Borgatti’s case study, qui trovate i riferimenti al documento.


A bird’s-eye view: Using social network analysis to improve knowledge creation and sharing

An increasingly common scenario …

“So the call came in late on Thursday afternoon and right away, I wished I hadn’t answered the phone. We had received a last-second opportunity to bid on a sizable piece of work that the partner on the other end of the line really wanted to pursue. Unfortunately, I had little experience in the subject matter but happened to be the one with availability at the time. I had no clue how to even begin looking for relevant methodologies or case examples, so my first move was to tap into my network to find some relevant info and leads to other people or databases. And in fact, I relied pretty heavily on this group of people over the next couple of days. For example, Seth was great for pointing me to other people and relevant information, Paul provided ideas on the technical content of the project while Jeff really helped in showing me how to frame the client’s issues in ways that we could sell. He also helped navigate and get buy-in from the client, given his knowledge of their operations and politics. And somehow in this process, we managed to pull it off … I mean the whole game is just being the person that can get the client what they need with the company’s resources behind you. This almost always seems to mean knowing who knows what and figuring out a way to bring their knowledge to bear on your client’s issue. Knowing who to turn to for what is ultimately the key to doing what you need to do quickly so you can go home to your family.”

We live in fascinating, yet uncertain and often disconcerting times, as less and less time is available for us to grow comfortable in our own knowledge while at work.1 Even within narrow technical specialties, it is becoming more and more difficult just to stay current. For example, witness today’s medical profession where, despite an unparalleled formal education, doctors are frequently “taught” by their patients, who have more time to review massive amounts of data related to their specific medical concern. Further, as we move into a knowledge-intensive economy, only rarely does any one person have sufficient knowledge to solve increasingly ambiguous and complex problems.

The opening vignette is representative of stories frequently heard when managers and executives are asked to recount how they obtained information critical to the success of an important project. Perhaps both the ambiguity of the initial problem posed as well as the way the manager resolved the problem resonates with your own experience. This person was successful, not solely as a result of his own knowledge, but rather as a product of being able to find and apply relevant information efficiently. And of notable importance is the role that his network played in helping him locate knowledge in a timely fashion.

The IBM Institute for Knowledge-Based Organizations found this scenario to be increasingly common. Usually, when thinking of where people go for information, databases or other sources of information, such as policy and procedure manuals come to mind. However, a significant, yet often overlooked component of people’s information environments are com- posed of the relationships that they use for information and knowledge capture. One study demonstrated that people are roughly five times more likely to turn to friends or colleagues for answers than other sources of information such as a database or file cabinet. Our own research with 40 managers revealed that 85 percent claimed to receive knowledge critical to the successful completion of an important project from other people. Although these managers did employ the organization’s knowledge base, it was often only to supplement knowledge they had acquired from other people. This, despite the fact that their organization had a leading-edge technical platform and institutionalized practices for capturing, screening and archiving codified knowledge.

Social network analysis can improve corporate knowledge creation and sharing