A Dutch Business School Using Social Network Analysis to Improve an MBA's Value

How a Dutch B-school is helping its diverse student body develop lasting networks:

One answer, at least at RSM, is technology. Dianne Bevelander, executive director of RSM programs, is using software to map the networks that students form among themselves and track the student connections over time. School administrators hope to use the lessons learned to teach students how to more effectively create the networks they’ll need to succeed in a global business environment.

Two weeks after students arrived in October, Bevelander asked them to identify their personal networks. A questionnaire asked them to name students with whom they work, those from whom they seek ideas, and those with whom they socialize. Then Bevelander color-coded the three types of connections to produce an image of the current class that, on a PC screen, looks like a lacework project gone haywire.

But patterns emerge. “This group works well together as a team,” says Bevelander, pointing at an octagon representing one student work group. “But if you look at the social network, they don’t talk to each other at all.” Indeed, the lines representing social connections all lead to other groups. The lesson: Teams can get the job done even if the members don’t like each other that much.