Knowledge Networks

Steve Borgatti is my all time favorite Social Network Analysis author. He is a SNA expert to be taken serious (after all, he is one of the people behind the standard software UCINET) but while he knows all his formulas, his most interesting papers are more philosophical than empirical or mathematical, exploring, for example,  how different kinds of flows (let’s say money or infection) require different kinds of centrality measures, because it does make a difference whether you give something and then it is gone (alas, money) or you give it and keep it at the same time (Also alas, infections. If only it where the other way round…).

I found this brief text about the meaning of different network structures for knowledge sharing and he does a good job of explaining how you can quantify the quality of a connection by looking at it’s multiplexity (do these two people just share knowledge or do they have more than one different link). And he looks for the most efficient network for knowledge sharing: The hub-and-spokes network has one central node that all links go through and who can reach everyone with one step. This is highly efficient as long as the central node is performing well and we are looking at simple “knowledge packages” that need to be delivered, where the right answer is clear – as compared to a knowledge co-creation process or situations where more than one answer is possible. A more stable situation that is equally as efficient would be the core-periphery structure, where the hub is replaced by a group of interconnected core actors who are surrounded by a periphery of non-connected actors. He concludes:

“In sum, dense, core/periphery networks are very efficient at spreading knowledge.
The other side of the coin, however, is that they are not good at innovation, because it is too easy for the conventional wisdom to swamp new ideas.” Steve Borgatti 2005

 

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