Network Mapping
🗺️

Network Mapping

Related to Tools (Property)

Overview

Network mapping can be used to generate a map of a workplace or organisation, by asking workers to trace connections between different individuals, groups, activities and tools. It can help reveal neglected or hidden power relations, as well as points of weakness where transformations might be targeted.

Purpose

  • Identify points of weakness and ‘structural holes’ in an organisation, e.g. where a single break in communication could cause the whole work process to break down.
  • Identify key individuals in a network who act as ‘connectors’ linking many others together (the person who ‘knows everyone’), or ‘contractors’ who provide more direct access to certain network resources (the person has ‘direct lines’ of communication).
  • Identify areas where an organisation's networks are dense (‘cliques’) or sparse to the point where certain individuals are ‘isolates’.
  • Understand how simple tasks rely on broader connections to technology, staff roles and wider concerns.
  • Identify means of developing professionally by building and strengthening networks of ‘high value’ links

Advantages

  • It can reveal potentially hidden lines of power or influence within the workplace
  • It can reveal points of weakness and where there is potential for change.
  • It is a relatively simple exercise, which can yield plenty of useful information about a variety of aspects of work.

In Practice

There are many different ways that you can map a workplace or organisation, and you can find out more about different methods below:

🛠️
Methods

💬
Advice Networks
💬
Advice Networks
Visual mapping tool
60 minutes
1+ people
Whole Network
Whole Network
Visual mapping tool, pen and paper
90–120 minutes
1+ people
🌐
Affiliation Networks
🌐
Affiliation Networks
Visual mapping tool
60–120 minutes
1+ people
📐
Task Unpacking
📐
Task Unpacking
Pen and paper, visual mapping tool
60–120 minutes
2+ people
🤝
Personal Networks
🤝
Personal Networks
Pen and paper, visual mapping software
60–120 minutes
2+ people

📱
Tools

🖼️
Miro
Visual
🖼️
Whimsical
Visual
🖼️
Kumu
Visual

🔠
Examples

Further reading

Perhaps the most prevalent form of theorizing and researching networks and networking is Social Network Analysis (SNA). The earliest attempts to use versions of social network analysis were associated with understanding the common structural forms of diverse societies, mathematical graph theory was used as the basis for analysis leaving the key question for social scientists being the identification of the appropriate unit of analysis: usually, but not always, the individual person - other social network analysis could be carried out at the level of organisations or political entities.

An important distinction can be drawn between ‘whole network’ and ‘ego-centred’ social network analysis. The former assumes that all of the elements of a network are known, or at least that the boundaries of the network are defined in advance: this can be difficult in practice and encourages network models based on single indicators (e.g. email contact, formal membership of organizations). In ego-centred approaches, there is no assumption that any individual has oversight of the entire network and the boundaries being studied only emerge as data are collected - this means that what results is an individual’s personal perception of the networks to which they belong or have access, and allows for more subjective measures to be used (e.g. friendship, affinities).

References