It can sometimes be difficult to see oneself as a node in multiple networks, as opposed to a more conventional position within an organizational hierarchy. We have become used to titles, job descriptions, and other institutional trappings. But network thinking can fundamentally change our view of hierarchical relationships.
For example, I once used value network analysis to help a steering group see their community of practice in a new light. For the first time, they saw it mapped as a network. They immediately realized that they were pushing solutions instead of listening to their community. As a result, they decided to change their Charter and develop more network-centric practices. Thinking in terms of networks can enable us see with new eyes.
Managing in Networks:
Here are some recommendations for organizations moving to more networked and creative work.
- Abolish the organization chart and replace it with a network diagram (some new tech companies have done this).
- Move away from counting hours, to a results only work environment.
- Encourage outside work that doesn’t directly interfere with paid work, as it will strengthen the network.
- Provide options for workers to come and go and give them ways to stay connected when they’re not employed (like Ericsson’s Stay Connected Facebook group). Build an ecosystem, not a monolith.
- Organizations should promote connected leadership.
Learning in Networks:
As we learn in digital networks, stock (content) loses significance, while flow (conversation) becomes more important – the challenge becomes how to continuously weave the many bits of information and knowledge that pass by us each day. Conversations help us make sense. But we need diversity in our conversations or we become insular. We cannot predict what will emerge from continuous learning, co-creating & sharing at the individual, organizational and market level, but we do know it will make for more resilient organizations.
Networked Professional Development:
A professional learning network, with its redundant connections, repetition of information and indirect communications, is a much more resilient system than any designed development program can be. Redundancy is also a good principal for supporting social learning diffusion. There is always more than one way to communicate or find something and just because something was blogged, tweeted or posted does not mean it will be understood and eventually internalized as actionable knowledge. The more complex or novel the idea, the more time it will take to be understood.
Programmers often say that you are only as good as your code. Credentials and certifications often act as blinders and stop us from recognizing the complexity of a situation. As Henry Mencken wrote, “For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.”
One approach to working smarter starts by organizing to embrace diversity and manage complexity. Diversity is a key factor in innovation and there are few organizations that do not want to improve innovation.
At the Connected Knowledge Lab, we offer a place and time to develop network skills. Our next event will focus on building a professional network, providing resources and feedback for anyone interested in getting started. Our workshops are designed to give just enough structure, without constraining personal and social learning, all at a reasonable price.