MB 814 Fall 2004
Special Topics in Org Beh:  Social Networks
Prof. Steve Borgatti

borgatts@bc.edu; Tel: 978 456-7356; Office Hrs: Tu 9:30-10:30; Fulton 220, Tu 7-9:30, http://www.analytictech.com/mb814


Managers know that relationships are important. However, because social ties are subjective and intangible, managers often neglect them in favor of hard financial data. The emerging field of organizational social network analysis promises to change that by making the invisible visible. The field provides metrics, mapping tools, and theoretical perspectives that significantly improve a manager's ability to manage.

This course lays out the social networks paradigm and explains how to use available tools for gathering, analyzing, and interpreting network data. From an academic point of view, the course seeks to re-conceptualize organizational behavior using a social networks perspective.

The course is intended for both MBA and Ph.D. students, combining academic rigor with practical application.

Course Structure

The course relies heavily on class discussion, often using business cases as vehicles. Much of the learning you have already done about organizational behavior is tacit knowledge that can be brought to light by examining real situations and discussing them using new concepts and terminology. Thus, it is crucial to read the homework materials carefully before coming to class.

The principal assignment for this course will be a term paper that reports the results of a semester-long research project. The student may choose one of two basic types of project: diagnostic or explanatory. The diagnostic project is basically a mini-consulting job in which you will work with a real organization in order to diagnose an organizational behavior problem (and suggest remedies) or provide an understanding of a situation that can be used to make decisions about the future. You will collect network data from the organization, analyze it using network analysis software, present the results to the class, and write-up a written report.

The explanatory project is particularly suitable for Ph.D. students. The idea here is to conduct a pilot research project using social network concepts. For example, one might do a quantitative study of how centrality in the gossip network contributes to a person's power. Or one might do a qualitative study of how new employees become integrated in the organization's informal social network. The paper should in principle be publishable in a management journal.

Projects may be executed by individuals or as a collaborative effort by a team. I recommend collaborative efforts because it makes data collection quite a bit easier. It is also possible for two or more individuals to collaborate on the data collection, but then turn in separate analyses.

For more information on the term project, consult the following web page: www.analytictech.com/mb814/termproject.htm .

In addition to the final project, students will be asked to provide some written summaries of key readings (especially cases) and do some homework assignments involving the network analysis software.

Finally, students will be graded on class participation. I expect everyone to participate in class discussion and activities. Sharing your real-life experiences as they apply to the discussion will be particularly valuable to the class. Constructive criticism of others' views and genuine listening to others is an important element of class participation. Participation is graded on preparedness, willingness to contribute, relevance, positive attitude, and grasp of the material.

The relative weight of assignments is as follows:

Assignment Weight
Research Project
- Presentation
- Written report
- summaries
Participation 20%

Important Note: Please submit all written work via e-mail -- no hard copies.


The official textbook for this course is a paperback called "Social Networks and Organizations" by Kilduff and Tsai. The BC bookstore does not carry it, so you might want to order it online. Note that, while useful, the textbook will not be the focus of the course. Most of the readings will consist of journal articles available free on the web (to BC students -- others will have to obtain through their home libraries). In addition, there will be a small number of Harvard Business Review articles and Harvard Business Online cases, which you will have to buy (typical cost is $5).


In addition, I recommend the following books:

  • Gladwell, M. The Tipping Point
  • Baker, W. Networking Smart
  • Cross, R. Hidden Power ...
  • Scott, J. 2000. Introduction to network analysis

  • Wasserman, S. and Faust, K. 1994. Social network analysis.


There is an optional lab session scheduled for 9:45-10:15 every night after class. This is for those who want to learn to use the social network analysis software. I strongly recommend it, especially for Ph.D. students. It is also useful for executing the research project.


The schedule of assignments and readings is online at www.analytictech.com/mb814/schedule.htm.

Please note that the schedule changes throughout the semester to reflect the needs and interests of the class. That's one of the key benefits of having it online. It is therefore your responsibility to check the online schedule constantly -- at the very least once a week, but I recommend more often. Do not print it out once and assume it is valid for the rest of the semester. You have been warned!


You should always feel free to email me (borgatts@bc.edu) and to call me at home (978-456-7356, after 9am and before 10pm). I often work at home, so it is not an imposition to call me there.

Copyright 2004 Stephen P. Borgatti Revised: September 17, 2004 Home Page