Using SNA for communities to discover innovation and opportunities

Social Network Analysis can be used in organizations with networks and Communities of Practice to discover opportunities for organizational learning, but especially for innovation. The discovery of both opportunities can be used using five principles:

  • Create a network-centric ability to sense and respond to opportunities. It is important to be aware of who knows what in the community; there are informal means to achieve this once there is an established “helping culture” but there are also formal means which help to map this: interviews and profiles are the very early stage but social network analysis using community data and qualitative data is a much better approach to visualize this. The application of these tools depends on the “just in time” need to respond to opportunities.
  • Develop an ability to rapidly test and refine an opportunity. Mapping decision-making networks so that emerging opportunity can be tried rapidly.
  • Work through people in specific network positions. Engage people who are information brokers who can reach out to other key connectors in the network. The idea is to bring diversity of people to work on the new idea as it is critical to its quality and to the ease of implementation (i.e. preventing the idea to be developed in isolation).
  • Leverage energy. Mapping enthusiasm in networks to indicate who makes them feel energized provides a powerful indicator of where creativity and innovation are occurring.
  • Ensure that organizational context supports collaboration. Simply introducing a collaborative technology, tweaking incentives, or advocating cultural programs to boost collaboration is insufficient. What is also required is the alignment of unique aspects of formal organization design, control systems, technology, and human resource practices. Specific cultural values and leadership can also have striking effects of collaboration.
  • These five points are inspired by Rob Cross' book ” Driving Results Through Social Network”.

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