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Abstract

The networks of communication and interpersonal relationships that develop naturally within an organization form channels for the flow of organizational knowledge and can also promote organizational learning. These informal social networks are significant mechanisms for both innovation and change management. However, until recently, very little has been done to try to facilitate or leverage social networks to take advantage of what they can do to deliver organizational value. Today, pressures on modern business to continually innovate and the increasing capability of information technologies to enable broader and more far-flung communication are driving organizations to look for ways to leverage social networks to improve business performance. Social networking concepts combined with a group of new and powerful interactive technologies, known collectively as peer-to-peer (P2P) computing, have the potential to profoundly change how companies work and deliver value. The effective harmonization of knowledge management with P2P technologies could therefore be the "killer app" that makes executives realize the importance of knowledge management (KM) to their organizations. However, their contribution to this partnership in the future will largely be dependent on knowledge managers' ability to demonstrate their skill at leveraging and facilitating social networks today. This paper combines the ideas and experiences of a group of practicing knowledge managers with research from the academic literature on social networks to create an overview of the issues and practices that are critical to facilitating the development of social networks and understanding their value in organizations. It examines the different types of social networks currently operating in organizations and the value of these networks to the enterprise and then looks at ways of developing and facilitating social networks in organizations. Finally, it examines the strategic potential of networks in organizations and how KM might help realize this value.

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