In this relatively new age of social media, it is hard to believe that Valdis Krebs of orgnet.com has been studying Social Network Analysis for more than 20 years. According to Valdis, “Social capital is the key to success for the 21st century organization.”
In today’s networked economy, it appears that organizations who ignore how connections form and function, in and outside their organization, do so at their own peril.
“The new advantage is context — how internal and external content is interpreted, combined, made sense of, and converted into new products and services,” says Valdis, “Creating competitive context requires social capital — the ability to find, utilize and combine the skills, knowledge and experience of others, inside and outside of the organization.”
Social Network Analysis Identifies Influence – Physician Case Study
Valdis’ InFlow software has helped many organizations, including healthcare and pharmaceutical companies, identify Key Opinion Leaders and Influentials through Social Network Analysis.
The network map is an example of how physicians might seek each other out to discuss new drugs or treatments. “If Physician A looks to Physician B for advice/opinion/expertise, then an arrow is drawn from node A to node B,” explains Valdis. Patterns of direct and indirect arrows surrounding a node help to identify influence. The node with the most arrows coming in, referred to as in-degrees, is Physician number 048, followed by 013 and 081, and then 078.
Does this reveal who is most influential? “No,” says Valdis, “This elementary analysis is not always accurate. We use a more sophisticated algorithm that takes into account the direct and indirect links in the network. This approach provides a more accurate evaluation of who really influences thought and practice throughout the Physician network. This method also allows our clients to find hidden experts –those who may not have the most connections, but strongly influence other opinion leaders.”
Innovation Happens at the Intersections
Valdis’ company orgnet.com has helped pharma inside the organization by looking at how key scientists and researchers are talking across disciplines, brands and technologies. “Innovation happens at the intersections, ” states Valdis, “We can help in drug development by removing islands and silos of knowledge.”
How Networks “Build” Communities
Valdis also assists companies looking to “build” communities and their influence with training on how networks form and are developed. In “Combining Social Capital and Human Capital for Organizational Success,” his work with June Holley, unmanaged networks follow two simple, yet powerful, driving forces:
1. Birds of a feather flock together.
2. Those close by, form a tie.
The result is small groups that begin to form little clusters. The power comes from a network “weaver” who starts to connect the clusters and begins the process of collaboration. Bridging ties between clusters is also important for innovation. “Connect on similarity, and profit from diversity,” they say.
The exponential step in organizing a network is Step Three, when multiple weavers emerge and start connecting to create a multi-hub community. Finally, the end goal for sustainable community networks is the core/periphery model. This comes after many years of network weaving by multiple hubs.
In my video interview with Valdis, I asked, “How do you see highly regulated industries, like pharma, leveraging social networks?”
“All industries can leverage social networks…what happens when an industry becomes very highly regulated, people become much more dependent on the informal networks, on the personal relationships they have. So, the more difficult the processes and the methods that are set up to regulate an industry, the more that industry turns to the informal and personal networks to understand what’s going on.”
In conclusion, Valdis asserts the the real knowledge is IN the networks. You have to go out and tap it. Watch the full video interview with Valdis Krebs here.
Answer to the Social Media Quiz
An interesting prelude to this post, was Valdis’ “fun” social media quiz in my post of February 16th. The quiz asked you to identify the person(s) in the fictional network you would use to spread a message. In essence, who has the most influence?
All the insights and thoughtful comments by those who responded were very much appreciated. Kudos to the brave innovators who ventured a guess on the quiz! Ultimately, Valdis’ quiz had many “good” answers.