While many progressive enterprises are becoming more network-centric, many research-oriented organisations retain a traditional hierarchy with an ego-centric culture. Paradoxically, network-centrism is associated with technology, innovation and creativity, the hallmarks of cutting-edge research. Using concepts of emergence from complexity theory, this study takes a developmental, action research approach to the application of social network analysis in legitimising a network of research groups in a traditionally managed institution. The results indicate that an emergent network is as valid an organisational structure as an imposed hierarchy for research management. The study also demonstrates the use of social network analysis and similar technological applications in democratising organisational decision-making in respective of group innovation.