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The International Network for Social Network Analysis (INSNA) awarded  
its first annual Visible Path Graduate Student Award for new research  
on social networks and professional performance today.

The winner, Nathaniel Bulkley, a doctoral student working with  
Assistant Professor Marshall Van Alstyne at the University of  
Michigan School of Information, conducted surveys and studied six  
months of email data and accounting records from an executive  
recruiting firm representative of professional services firms  
organized around client practices.  An interesting finding was that  
characteristics of the recruiter’s internal networks were  
statistically significant predictors of performance, but the size of  
their private rolodexes were not.

Bulkley's winning paper, “An Empirical Analysis of Strategies and  
Efficiencies in Social Networks” can be downloaded from http://www- 
personal.umich.edu/~natb/

The abstract of his paper is:

	This research examines hypotheses about the efficient and strategic  
uses of social networks by a specific group of white collar workers.  
We examine existing theory that relates network structure to  
performance and put forward two new hypotheses. The first addition  
merges explore/exploit theory with social networks, proposing that  
optimal network characteristics evolve over the course of a career  
from those favoring exploration to those favoring exploitation of  
knowledge and relationships. The second concerns efficient movement  
of information through a network, proposing that frequent short  
communication outperforms infrequent lengthy communication. Using a  
unique data set containing email patterns and accounting records for  
several dozen executive recruiters, we find statistically significant  
differences related to network (1) structure (2) flow and (3) age.  
Consistent with existing theory, more central position is associated  
with higher output. Consistent with the two proposed theories,  
exploration strategies among early career recruiters and exploitation  
strategies among senior recruiters are both positively associated  
with performance, while more frequent shorter messages are associated  
with higher output. Results of this research have the potential to  
create a more complete understanding of different types of efficiency  
associated with social networks.


In brief, Bulkley’s email analysis found relationships between  
centrality and performance, while also showing how aspects of how  
social networks are used relate to performance.  Shorter, more  
frequent responses were associated with higher performance and  
professional’s network use evolved over the course of a career from  
an emphasis on accumulating to exercising social capital.

Bulkley’s findings suggest professional service firms may be able to  
develop more efficient and effective communications strategies  
through the use of relational measures derived from electronic data  
sources.  A recent BusinessWeek story (Feb. 13) highlighted the  
growing popularity of dashboards that incorporate real-time data.   
Will future dashboards emphasize real-time relational measures?

Bulkley reseach will be featured at at INSNA's upcoming http:// 
www.insna.org/2006/sunbelt2006.html Sunbelt conference  in Vancouver.

The Visible Path Graduate Student award is sponsored by http:// 
www.visiblepath.com   Visible Path.

Details for the 2007 Visible Path Graduate Student award will be  
announced shortly.

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