Thursday, March 02, 2006

UM student wins award for social network research:

The International Network for Social Network Analysis announced Wednesday that Nathaniel Bulkley, a doctoral student at the University of Michigan School of Information, won the first annual Visible Path Graduate Student Award for his research. The project, conducted with UM assistant professor Marshall Van Alstyne, analyzed how white collar workers use social networks to improve professional performance. The hypothesis that success is related not just to whom you know but how you communicate with them was supported by key findings. Among them: Professionals' use of social networks evolves over the course of their career from accumulating relationship capital to exercising it; frequent, short communication outperforms lengthy, infrequent communication in efficiently moving information through a social network; and central position in a social network is consistent with higher individual performance. For his research, Bulkley conducted surveys and studied six months of e-mail data and accounting records from an executive recruiting firm representative of professional services firms organized around client practices. An unexpected finding was a lack of relationship between a recruiter's private rolodex and network size or job performance. "In the early days of executive recruiting, the recruiters with the largest individual rolodexes may have been the most successful," Bulkley said. "That no longer appears to be true, as information sharing and teamwork have become increasingly important. Business value is often associated with relationships. In the future, techniques for analyzing e-mail and other electronic communication records may help us better understand these dynamics within and across organizations." The award, created by Visible Path and INSNA, carries a $5,000 prize plus expenses to INSNA's conference April 25-30 in Vancouver, British Columbia, where Bulkley will present to an international audience of over 500 network researchers. More at More about the 2007 version of the contest at More about Visible Path at

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