Dustin Stucki and Dr. Julie Hite, Educational Leadership and Foundations
The overall goal of the proposed research is to synthesize the current state of research and literature on organizational networks—specifically informal and social networks. Internally, informal networks consist of the relationships between people within the organization; these networks may not align with the formal organizational chart. Externally, informal network relationships connect people with others outside the organization; these network relationships create the conduits through which knowledge and resources can be brought into the organization. While these networks are extremely important for successful organizations, little has been done to understand the strategic roles networks play within educational organizations. Four questions were proposed to determine the state of social network research: 1. What research has been done in the fields of sociology, management, and education? 2. What are the implications of the existing network research for educational organizations? 3. What constructs, methods, and measures are being or have been used to collect and analyze network data in the study of informal and social networks? 4. What are the current and future research questions that need to be addressed in the area of informal and social networks in educational organizations?
With the intention of answering the above stated questions we did an intense review of research relating to informal and social networks, focusing on educational organizations. A summary content and variable interaction was created for each research article as well as an analysis of the research questions, methods, findings and future research directions in an attempt to determine the current state of research relating to this field and to ascertain future research needs.
70 publications were used in this meta-analysis. Of the 70 articles relating to informal and social networks:
71% (n = 50) were based on business networks 14% (n = 10) were not based on specific network type 7% (n = 5) were based on community networks 7% (n = 5) were based on personal networks 4% (n = 3) were based on educational networks 3% (n = 2) were based on government networks 50% (n = 35) was research which developed theories 41% (n = 29) was research done by experimental methods 9% (n = 6) was research of former literature
It was found that network centrality increases performance, dyadic interaction, risk taking, information access, acceptance of change, strategic vision, network activity, and adaptability. Centrality within a network increases among those who are self-monitors, and have greater ability to adapt and innovate. Performance and growth of a network increases individual adaptability. Performance and growth of a network is increased with greater network cohesion, network centrality, larger network size, network diversity, network accessibility, strategic vision, increased network resources, and member experience. Performance is decreased when there is network hindrance.
Tie strength increases network support and is increased when members are kin. Network support increases job satisfaction, and is increased by greater tie strength, network accessibility, kinship, shared ties, and when members are married. A lack of technology decreases network support. And an abundance of technology increases network activity. Centrality also increases network activity. Network activity is not influenced by gender. Although females have greater network diversity than do males.
Discussion: How, When, Where, and Who
HOW. About 50% of the research of informal and social networks is the development of theories. About 41% of the research is testing those theories. About 9% is devoted to past research. In a general sense it was found that there is an effective ratio of research based on empirical findings and those developing new theories to provide an insightful and innovative knowledge base. The reviews of past literature are effective and provide useful critique and needed changes in the field. The current methods of analysis of network data seem to be effective. Furthermore, many researches are theorizing alterations to improve the current methods of analysis.
In summarizing and synthesizing the research it was determined that there are three main challenges facing the current method of research in informal and social networks: when, where, and who. When are the findings applicable? Where can the findings be applied? And to whom can the findings be applied?
WHEN. Among the research based on empirical findings a large majority of the studies used survey and interview data to draw conclusions (76%). A relative few used longitudinal and observational data (24%). So the knowledge base is a good indicator of how variables interact under a given circumstance and time, but in general, is not an accurate indication of how the variables change or interact with each other over a period of time. Neither can the current data be used to predict the origin of network characteristics among ego, dyad, or network.
WHERE. Almost all of the data comes from research based on United States and Canada populations. But the real challenge to the research is who is being studied among these populations. 77% of the research was based on samples from networks of formal organizations. These would include businesses, government, educational systems, etc. Only 14% of the research was done on informal network interaction and virtually all of it has been done in the last couple years. These would include marriages, friendships, social settings, community interactions, etc. While social network theory has is beginnings in socioeconomics, the methods of analysis can be effectively applied to interpersonal relationships as well. Empirical research in this field is needed.
WHO. Virtually all of the knowledge base from the current research is from an economical standpoint. 71% of the research was done on the networks of business organizations. 7% of the research was based on personal networks, 7% were based on community networks, 4% on educational networks, and 3% on government networks. It is clear that more informal and social network research is required concerning networks other than those from businesses.
In synthesizing the current state of research and literature on organizational networks it was found that there is an effective combination between theory development and analysis of empirical data to propel knowledge in this field forward. However, the application of this progressive knowledge is severely limited by specific circumstances and times, to formal networks, and economic based organizations. In an attempt to synthesize the informal and social networks in educational organizations, it was found that there is not sufficient research to accurately form conclusions. Future research should include informal networks, origins of network variables and how they change over time, and could include formal networks other than economic ventures. Future research could also address the issue of whether the data found in the analysis of business networks can be viably applied to other types of formal networks, such as education and government.