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Towards building internal social network architecture that drives innovation: a social exchange theory perspective

Gospel Onyema Oparaocha (Turku School of Economics, University of Turku, Turku, Finland, and School of Computing, University of Eastern Finland, Joensuu, Finland)

Journal of Knowledge Management

ISSN: 1367-3270

Article publication date: 9 May 2016




This paper aims to contribute toward the extension and further development of the social exchange theory. It provides conceptual insights on social networks in geographically dispersed organizations, and how intra-organizational social interactions influence organizational behavior, employees relationship exchange inclination and innovation drive.


A thematic literature review method was used to conduct an extensive review of relevant literature.


Guided by the tenets of the social exchange theory, the authors’ analysis and discussions elucidate how intra-organizational social network architecture can be developed, supported and utilized to drive innovations in geographically dispersed organizations.

Research limitations/implications

A general limitation and perhaps also a strength of this type of conceptual paper is that it is a synthesis (thematic discursive analysis) of existing theory and published research. Thus, there are no primary empirical content. However, the issue of empirical evidence is nevertheless mediated by the fact that the discussions and argumentation process generate key propositions which could be validated in subsequent research endeavors. Also, the selection of relevant literature is restricted specifically to the topic of the study. The authors strived to ensure rigor through a robust and comprehensive literature review which was organized thematically according to all the key words in the main and sub-topics covered in Section 2.

Practical implications

The insights presented suggest that management should pay serious attention to organizational design – that is, not only from the conventional contractual obligations point of view, but rather, the increasing importance of social capital should also be given some priority when thinking of resilient ways to encourage collaborations and efficient knowledge management. In other words, intra-organizational social network architecture should be considered as organizational capability and utilized as a toolset for the SIHRM to harness knowledge flow and unleash innovation.

Social implications

As both bonding and bridging ties are not only critical for success of project teams but also intensify knowledge symmetry across different units of the organization, they are a major conduit for sustainable open innovation culture within organization. To develop competitive capabilities throughout the organization, it is important for the SIHRM to be involved in global networking, and as a network leader, the human resource management function must have an awareness of leading trends and developments in social networking. The ability to mobilize the appropriate resources and a sense of timing and context in implementing such architecture within the geographically spread organization is crucial.


The novel contribution of this paper is twofold. First, the study provides an implementable framework which scholars and practitioners could use to develop and test the actualization of an intra-organizational social network architecture in a geographically dispersed organization. Second, the study has provided some key propositions and a well-grounded direction for further research to inspire further development/extension of the social exchange theory.



Oparaocha, G.O. (2016), "Towards building internal social network architecture that drives innovation: a social exchange theory perspective", Journal of Knowledge Management, Vol. 20 No. 3, pp. 534-556.



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Copyright © 2016, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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