It's all about networks

It’s all about networks. Understanding networks that is. This is the shift our organizations, institutions, and society must make in order to thrive in an always-on, interconnected world.

Changing the mechanistic mindset: Work is changing as we get more connected. The old ways of organizing work are becoming obsolete, as 84% of workers in the US planned to change their jobs in 2011. Workers want out, in spite of a lacklustre economy. We are seeing mass, decentralized and social movements that confront existing hierarchies, politically and in the workplace. The uprisings in North Africa were good attention getters. There is no normal. All our institutions are facing the challenges of always-on connectedness and the need to adapt to Internet time. Social media are just the current tip of the Internet iceberg, making work relationships much more complex. Workers do have to step up, but they also need the tools and authority. Encouraging workplace practices like personal knowledge management is a start.

It’s the network: Thinking like a node in a network and not as a position in a hierarchy is the first mental shift that’s required to move to a collaborative enterprise. Nurturing Creativity is now a management responsibility. The old traits of the industrial/information worker were Intellect, Diligence, and Obedience. The new traits of the collaborative worker are Passion, Creativity, and Initiative. These cannot be commoditized. People cannot be creative on demand. The collaborative enterprise requires looser hierarchies and stronger networks.

Network Thinking: One major challenge in helping organizations improve collaboration and knowledge-sharing is getting people to see themselves as nodes in various networks, with different types of relationships between them.

Network Walking: One way to convince managers of the importance of network thinking is to force them to connect with their networks by getting out of their offices, physically and virtually. It’s not a question of what keeps managers awake at night, it’s what can we do to make sure they are awake to their networks during the day. Go for a walk.

Finally, this RSA Animate video provides an excellent overview of the power of networks and the challenge of mapping an increasingly complex world. It’s well worth watching.

3 Responses to “It's all about networks”

  1. Peter Spence

    Good article – highlights the risk of collaborative inertia emerging when applying old management mindsets (hierarchal, command/control) to new ways of organising (network forms, collaboration etc).

  2. Linda

    Very powerful concept. Leaves one with hope in networking and the power it can have on creating social change.

  3. Andrew Bishop

    Really like this viewpoint. Would make a great TEDTalk!

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