The purpose of this paper is to understand how social networks can help to produce the “magic” of extraordinary results for organizations.
In this exploratory study four cases (from published reports) are compared in order to illustrate different management approaches to utilizing the power of networks.
Social networks can be central to a strategy for organizational transformation (OT), as in three of these cases. They can also be fundamental to a firm's mode of organizing from its inception business and permanently, as in the second case (W.L. Gore). The three cases illustrate several approaches to connecting social networking with management's OT strategies. An important difference exists between informal, autonomous networks and networks that “talk” to management.
These cases illustrate what is possible, not what is typical. All four cases involve social networks already aligned to official goals. This exploration of networking in the service of OT suggests some hypotheses but cannot rigorously test them.
Social networks can create, contain, and convey much of a company's intellectual capital and can control much of its potential for “magical” improvement. The basic principles of OT (developing a learning organization) apply here.
The comparative study of four cases is fruitful but rare. Network literature mostly consists of single cases and surveys at a distance.
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