Friday, July 27, 2007

Social networks and organizations: Introduction

My book report on Social Networks and Organizations, by Kilduff and Tsai. Part One of a Series.

Introduction: Kilduff and Tsai see a big future for SNA, as long as its more zealous fans can get out of their own way.

They say, "The potential application of the social network approach to organizations is, in our view, enormous. The full spectrum of organizational phenomena that network thinking can illuminate extends across levels from micro to macro, and includes topics typically covered in fields such as organizational cognition, organizational behavior, organizational theory, and strategic management."

However, "The network paradigm is in danger of becoming a victim of its own success--invoked by practically every organizational researcher, included in almost every analysis, and yet strangely absent as a distinctive set of ideas."

Kilduff and Tsai do not flinch from drawing a line between successes and failures in SNA research to date. In particular, they comment that effective formation of networks clearly helps individuals; however, "the jury is still out as to whether social capital measured at the individual level does indeed have effects at the community level." In other words, SNA can help me get promoted faster, but does that help my company as a whole?

At the end of each chapter, Kilduff and Tsai recommend further reading. The references at the end of this chapter are a collection of all-round MVPs:

Baker, W.E. 2000. Achieving success through social capital, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. A practitioner-oriented guide.

Baker, W.E. and Faulkner, R.R. 2002. Interorganizational networks. In J.A.C. Baum (ed.), The Blackwell companion to organizations, pp. 520-40. Oxford: Blackwell. A survey of research.

Brass, D.J. 1995. A social network perspective on human resources management. In gerald R. Ferris (ed.), Research in personnel and human resources management, 13: 39-79. Greenwhich, CT: JAI Press. A guide to SNA for HR.

Krackhardt, D. and Brass, D.J. 1994. Intraorganizational networks: The micro side. In S. Wasserman and J. Galaskeiwicz (eds), Advances in social network analysis, pp. 207-29. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Survey of SNA research for leadership development and other work attitudes.

Powell, W.W. and Smith-Doerr, L. 1994. Networks and economic life. In N.J. Smelser and R. Swedberg (eds), The handbook of economic sociology, pp. 368-402. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Broad survey of research on topics such as power, communication networks, and networks of production.

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