Innovation Clique Analysis – An Irish Butterfly

Innovation Clique Analysis - An Irish ButterflyIn recent posts I have been describing the use of analytics within EMC to identify cliques of innovators. These innovators generated a high number of idea submissions as part of our 2011 Innovation Showcase.

The chart below identifies five large clusters. The leftmost cluster (indicated by the arrow) will be the subject of this post.


I asked EMC Distinguished Engineer John Cardente to use R to generate a social network graph of just this cluster:


This graph tells us several things:

  • Each node in the graph represents a person that submitted an idea.
  • Each node is labeled with the number of ideas that each person submitted.
  • The cluster consists of two cliques.
  • These two cliques are united by a common “hub”.

I asked John to further explain the concept of “hubs” to me:

“The graph clearly shows the two cliques, one on the right and the other on the left. However, it also shows that they are connected by a central “hub”. In this case, the hub also submitted the most contest entries. This is an interesting finding as it suggests that such hubs may be an important factor in growing large innovation cliques. How, then, to identify hubs?

Another social network analysis metric is betweenness, a measure of a node’s importance to the connectivity of a graph. Hubs are generally characterized as nodes having a large number of connections (degree) and high betweenness. Using R, it’s possible to compute both metrics (degree and betweenness) for each contest participant. This helps to identify the EMC employees currently playing a large role in creating innovation networks. The goal is to grow these employees through support and mentorship and leverage them to further expand EMC’s innovation networks.”

This butterfly graph came with a list of names attached to each node. I began to do initial research into each clique. Here is some of what I learned:

  • These cliques are Irish!  All of the idea submitters work as part of EMC’s Ireland Center of Excellence (COE).
  • The employees from the larger clique all belong to the same division (Logistics), while employees from the clique on the left span multiple divisions, including HR, Sales, Manufacturing, and Facilities (to name a few).
  • The clique on the right generated a variety of ideas that are all related to improving communities, from career growth for employees, to improved communication with our customers, to partnering with local museums.
  • The members of the other clique all submitted the same three ideas together. For this clique, each idea has a similar  theme: “How do we improve the impressions that our customers get when they visit our facility”?

I am fairly impressed with the volunteerism exemplified by these employees!  What made this particular set of people decide to band together for the good of the company?  How can this type of behavior be extended to other geographies? Is it possible to connect the inventors in this clique to other relevant individuals/teams within the company?

These questions can only be answered by connecting with the members of the cliques themselves (I’ve already started arranging some meetings).

In future posts I hope to dive into the motivations behind some of the larger cliques that have emerged in this year’s Innovation Showcase.

Image credit: Dedendz

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Steve ToddSteve Todd is a high-tech inventor and author of the book “Innovate With Global Influence“. An EMC Intrapreneur with over 150 patent applications and billions in product revenue, he writes about innovation on his personal blog, the Information Playground.

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6 Responses to Innovation Clique Analysis – An Irish Butterfly

  1. Pingback: Innovation Excellence | Irish Cocoon

  2. Great stuff.

    Would be awesome to have the data set (anonamysed of course) and use it in lecturing etc about the role of networks in innovation. SNA seems difficult for managers to get their heads around. Is that your experience too?

    Love ur work.

  3. Steve Todd says:

    Yes it has been my experience that SNA is not intuitive, but I believe it can be remedied via training for managers. I’m about to write a series of posts about some training that I underwent that very much helped me in my ability to ask for this type of data. Stay tuned and thanks for the compliment!

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