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How much do you really know about your social network?


Earlier in the year I wrote about the importance of having people within your organization that have a huge amount of organizational knowledge.  The study I looked at highlighted the important role of the so called meta expert, who knew exactly what knowledge resides in particular individuals, and in particular parts of the organization.

It’s on this general topic that a new study is being undertaken by researchers at Northeastern University.  The study is aiming to understand just how much we know about our own social networks.  The theory is that, much like an iceberg, a lot of our social knowledge remains hidden from our consciousness.

The study hopes to help people activate their social networks much more effectively than the researcher believes is currently the case.  They mention how our social networks are currently massively under-utilized, especially as vital knowledge and connections often sit at the edges of our networks.

“I like to think of these networks as resources that are hidden in plain sight,” the researcher says. “If you don’t have a good sense of who is in your network then you can’t leverage what people have to offer.”

The researcher believes that such network knowledge is crucial to the successful operation of our organizations.  She has recently received funding from the US Army Research Laboratory to further her research, so it’s likely that the study will have particular applications for the military.

Suffice to say, there have been numerous attempts over the years to map employee networks and to use algorithms to both detect who has particular bits of knowledge and also who you may benefit from collaborating with, but it’s traditionally been very hard to map the unknown unknowns (to use a Rumsfeldian phrase).

It will be interesting to see therefore what comes from this research when it’s published next year.  One to watch with interest.

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