a network perspective

The three overlapping circles of the network learning model – social networks, communities of practice, work teams – have been described by Patti Anklam as three network types – connectivity, alignment, productivity. This makes sense, because in social networks we mostly connect, while in communities of practice we strive to find alignment between ideas and practice, and in our work teams we produce something of value. Patti goes on to describe the key tasks for ‘network builders’.network-learning.001

Connectivity Network (social network) – “Weaving — Helping people make connections, increase ease of sharing information”
Alignment Network (community of practice) – “Facilitating — helping people to explore potential shared identity and value propositions”
Productivity Network (work team) – “Coordinating — helping people plan and implement collaborative action”

Perceiving all three of these spaces as networks reinforces the principle that we cannot manage networks, only influence through our interactions. I have noted before that positional leadership in hierarchies is a master-servant, parent-child, teacher-student, employer-employee relationship. It puts too much power in the hands of individuals and blocks human networks from realizing their potential.

In the network era, leadership is helping the network make better decisions. It focuses on creating more human organizational structures that enable self-governance. Leadership is an emergent property of a network in balance. Depending on any one person to be the leader will dumb-down the entire network. Viewing all of our work & learning from a network perspective may in the long-run create better workplaces.


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