A team of researchers from International Business Machines Corporation (IBM) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) released a very interesting piece of academic research this week, which presents some findings from a study of “the largest organizational social network ever collected.”  The researchers collected and mined data related to c. 400,000 IBM employees.  The researchers further focused on a subset of that dataset — 2,600 consultants — to draw insights on how connectedness impacts the productivity of employees who generate revenues by logging billable hours.

What makes the study so interesting — in addition to the extraordinarily huge dataset used — is that it is one of the first attempts I’ve seen to assign a currency-based value to social network connections.  In this case, the social network is based in email; it lives in IBM’s internal deployment of Lotus Notes.

The study associates incremental revenue earned by a consultant with both individual and project-level email activity.  For example, the study finds that if an IBM consultant uses email to reach out to a manager that is not his direct supervisor, he produces, on average, an additional $588/month in revenue as compared to a consultant that only interfaces with her direct manager.

This is fascinating stuff, and my head is spinning with the possibilities of how this might be applied to inter-enterprise interactions conducted via emergent social software, rather than through well-institutionalized email.  I just came across this study today and haven’t had time to properly digest it yet, but will do so and comment further.  In the meanwhile, I invite you to read it for yourself and leave observations and  comments here.