A Practice Approach to the Study of Social Networks
Work in organizations is increasingly accomplished through a complex system of formal and informal relationships. Research has emphasized the role of networks in connecting workers and spanning the occupational boundaries and different mental models that divide them (Brass, Galaskiewicz, Greve, & Tsai, 2004; Tichy, 1981). Organizations can improve creativity, innovation, and their effectiveness by establishing broader networks among their members and creating deeper ties within their work teams (e.g., Burt, 1992; Tsai, 2002). An impressive body of literature has examined organizational networks, establishing the relational view of the organization (Gittell & Douglass, 2012; Powell, 1990) as the “new normal.” This research has demonstrated the important role that networks play in the workplace, for example, as a vehicle to speed up knowledge exchange, increase the efficiency of work, and foster serendipitous communication about work-related topics, adding to and interplaying with the formal communication and reporting structure (Cummings, 2004; Hansen, 1999, 2002; Knoke & Burt, 1983; Krackhardt & Stern, 1988; Tichy & Fombrun, 1979).