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The Hidden Power of Social Networks: Understanding How Work Really Gets Done in Organizations Hardcover

ISBN-13: 978-1591392705 ISBN-10: 1591392705 Edition: 4.1.2004

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard Business Review Press; 4.1.2004 edition (June 2, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1591392705
  • ISBN-13: 978-1591392705
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 9.1 x 0.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #397,639 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

That organizational charts rarely describe functional hierarchy is obvious to any employee who’s ever tried to adhere to one. Instead, survival often depends on incorporating oneself into unofficial social networks that allow one to gain access to necessary information and to collaborate with the colleagues who can actually get things done. In this dense but useful volume, Cross and Parker-both consultants with IBM’s Knowledge and Organizational Performance Forum-give readers insight into how such unofficial networks form and function. They also share their methodology for rendering these basically unseen networks visible to managers. By literally mapping information flow and collaboration patterns among the people who make up a department or firm, they can pinpoint individual bottlenecks, essential employees and those who have been pushed to the periphery or whose expertise is underutilized. Their analysis enables managers to adapt their strategies to exploit and support these now visible networks and improve overall productivity. Rather than using their book as a forum to garner new consulting business-with a ‘kids don’t try this at home’ approach-they encourage readers to pursue network analysis at their own organizations by arming them with step-by-step instructions through two appendixes. The authors present their material in the nitty-gritty style of an evening business course, with lots of charts and examples. They take their mission of arming managers with a substantive strategic tool very seriously. In this way, theirs is unlike many management books that are high on concept and lacking in application-Cross and Parker provide a guide that is directly applicable to improving the functionality of any organization.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


"Cross and Parker offer managers suggestions for improving their organizations' social networks." -- CIO Magazine, June 1, 2004

"When networks organize themselves, they can drain coordination, learning and performance. The solution...is to make the network visible." -- Time Magazine, June 21, 2004

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Customer Reviews

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It is well written, makes main points clearly, and delves into the substance of its subject.
Gerry Stern
The implications are of special interest to me, in light of the rapidly increasing impact of blogging, another indication of "information transparency."
Robert Morris
By becoming conscious of the power that these networks yield we can better harness their potential energy and creativity force.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

62 of 65 people found the following review helpful By Patricia Anklam on May 12, 2004
Format: Hardcover
The Hidden Power of Social Networks provides the most complete treatment of the subject of applying the understanding of social networks to organizations as you will find. It includes the insights from the many, many cases that the authors facilitated and it provides insight into the methodology itself. As such, it is a good book for both executives who have had inklings that there is something useful for them in all this "social network" hype, and for HR/organizational development specialists and consultants who want to understand the nuts and bolts of the method.
In recent years we saw (and I read) half a dozen books on the emerging science of networks (Linked, Six Degrees of Separation; from the management consulting Nexus, Living Networks); the language of The Tipping Point tipped into the vernacular; and social networking sites (LinkedIn™, tribe.net, Spoke, VisualPath) climbed the "hype cycle" by promising value in gaining access to powerful people just three degrees away. The jury is still out on the latter, but the genie is out of the bottle: organizations and individuals are making the shift to an understanding that social networks shape our lives and our work, and that we can learn how to identify, assess, and manage these networks.
This book is the first fully practical, actionable work on social network analysis in organizations. Cross and Parker are among a handful of professionals who have worked deeply in organizations to analyze existing social networks, position these networks within the context of the strategy, culture, and promise of organizations and recommend specific, positive steps that can alter the dynamics of the networks that exist.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Valdis Krebs on June 13, 2004
Format: Hardcover
There are many network books out there -- this is the only one that focuses on networks inside business organizations. Being a management consultant who has applied Social Network Analysis to organizational issues since 1987 this book mostly fits my experience.
This book is an excellent introduction for the internal or external consultant considering their first social network analysis project. Cross & Parker provide many examples, and discuss both network mapping and measuring. They focus on the network methods and metrics that are understandable by common business people -- no PhD required, an MBA will do fine.
Coming from a research organization, the authors don't always go into great deatil on how to apply network analysis in solving business problems. A couple of stories of before/after networks are shared. Yet, how they apply interventions and solutions is often glossed over. The last few chapters delve into this with more detail, but it may be too late in the book for some readers. Several of the the network examples could have used more details to provide the reader a better context of what was happening in the organization.
The Appendix is great -- how to get started in a social network analysis project. This section alone may be worth the price of the book for many hands-on consultants.
As business schools start to teach social network analysis, this book will make an excellent textbook for both undergraduate and MBA students.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Laurent Pacalin on May 11, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Having designed and deployed social enterprise applications for several years, I read "The hidden power of social networks" a second time to contrast my own experiences against others. I was compelled to recognize that many if not most of Cross and Parker's insights are still very valid today. Their focus on developing a sense-and-respond organizational capability, as well as, creating energy in organizations is dead-on. With the benefit of hindsight, I would say that the power of social networks is no longer hidden and that even greater attention should be placed on the "networked" rather than the "network" itself. Today, applications like Linkedin, Jive and Lithium are enabling much more dynamic, portable and adaptive networks, allowing spontaneous "natural hierarchies"!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Retired Reader on August 18, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Although the authors do not say so, this book is really about knowledge based organizations as either independent entities or as part of a larger organization. Information is the essential raw material for all knowledge based organizations. This book then is really about how information flows through such an organization and how information based decisions are developed by means of social networking.

Social networking has long been identified by sociologists as the indispensible inter-personal relationships for group cohesion and effectiveness. Cross and Parker have taken this concept one step further and demonstrate that the acquisition and flow of information in a knowledge based organization is dependent on such social networking. Indeed they maintain that by reconstructing existing corporate social networks it is not only possible to identify the real production flows, but also those individuals who expedite or impede that flow. Along the way they identify such personality types as `energizers' and `de-energizers' as well as bottle necks and uneven distribution of tasks and responsibilities. They also identify peripheral individuals and groups that often become ineffective because they become too isolated from the main flows of information. Perhaps the most important point they make is that for a `knowledge based enterprise' information sharing and collaboration are absolutely essential for the successes of the enterprise. Again although they do not specifically discuss this, reconstructing a social network also identifies an organization's real leaders as opposed to notional leaders. Indeed they point out an organization's formal organization chart (beloved by bureaucrats everywhere) often has nothing to do with work flows or actual relationships.
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