Steve Borgatti, Associate Professor in the Department of Organizational Studies at Boston College, is one of the key players in the world of social network analysis. I heard him speak not long ago at the Swiss House in Cambridge, where he shared the trans-Atlantic floor with Duncan Watts (who was video-conferenced in from Switzerland).
During Steve's brief remarks, I was particularly struck by his protective concern for the field of SNA amidst the waves of commercially driven fads that keep washing over it. Business consultants and managers looking for the next big thing have over-hyped legitimate topics such as weak ties, embeddedness, social capital, small worlds, and scale-free. Steve expressed concern that the trendiness of SNA is getting more pronounced, with fads that spike higher and crash faster than ever before.
I share Steve's concern, and for a similarly selfish reason. As a professional with a lifelong devotion to networks, I want to protect the reputation of my field. So when I hear stories of managers clamoring for workshops on how to make their organizations scale-free, I am partly excited that networks have become so popular, but I also worry that "scale-free" got oversold somewhere along the line. Were I Chairman of the SNA-Fed, I would comment to the press about "irrational exuberance" and hint that the small-world interest rate might go up half a percent next month if things don't settle down.
Having said all that, I am delighted to point my readers to Steve's up-and-coming web page on "Social Network Analysis for Managers." This page addresses the fundamentals of applying SNA effectively in the field of management, without any hype.