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Social capital is gaining preeminence as a concept to interpret the behavior of organizational entities, especially in new product development (NPD). Significant research is accumulating that links the performance of NPD teams with the patterns of social capital that they exhibit. The research suggests that analyzing teams' social capital could provide insights to improve substantively the performance of NPD teams. However, the pragmatic use of social capital presents a number of difficulties. Investigating and resolving these issues is vital if the concept of social capital can be used to achieve performance improvement. This paper reports on an investigation in the aerospace industry, the aim of which was to establish the feasibility of mapping and analyzing a team's social capital in order to provide insights and to highlight productive interventions. The investigation used an action-research methodology involving the codevelopment and coimplementation of solutions with two multinational companies, GKN Aerospace and TRW Aerospace Group, and a management consultancy organization, the Rossmore Group. This paper reports on the encapsulation of social capital research in a management tool and its application within GKN and TRW. The results of the investigation indicate that analyzing the social capital of NPD teams provides a useful approach to improving their performance.
Date of Publication: Nov. 2007