Understanding networks using social network analysis

Photo credit: Scott Dempwolf

This looks like an image from the Hubble telescope – but it’s actually a glimpse into understanding networks using social network analysis.

Our work at the Lab focuses on network development and growth, whether that’s done in the context of a Strategic Doing workshop, a cognitive diversity scan with a core team, or improving an internal process with a rapid improvement session. Those tools help us guide more effective networks – but tools to gauge network growth are harder to come by. Most of us have at least some sense when the work we’re doing is engaging an increasing number of people and organization – when our networks are expanding. Social network analysis is a more precise way to measure that growth. In our newest podcast episode, drawn from a recent Third Thursday discussion, we dive into this topic with Scott Dempwolf of the University of Maryland. Scott came to academia from economic development, and his focus is on applying the mathematical models of social network analysis to the innovation process.

In the podcast episode, Scott outlines some of the basic ideas behind understanding networks using social network analysis, and then gives three examples of its use. The image? That’s a visualization of a network – in this case, innovation networks in Pennsylvania. The discussion after the session was a vibrant one, and we’re considering how to make better use of this tool in our own work. Stay tuned!

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