It’s about networks

Rob Paterson writes at FastForward Blog on how the UK riots show us that everyone needs to be plugged into the Web to get things done; for good and for bad:

The Police and the community are learning also in real time how to help each other – by also using social media. Citizens are using Twitter and Facebook to help the police have better intelligence and the police are learning this week how best to respond and to monitor.

I noted in a post on Agility & Autonomy that a culture of perpetual Beta is critical. Perpetual Beta means we never get to the final release and that our learning will never stop. Agile organizations realize they will never reach some future point where everything stabilizes and they don’t need to learn or do anything new. Networks are in perpetual Beta too. Unlike hierarchies, they continuously change shape, size and composition. Our thinking needs to continuously change as well.

Euan Semple talks about the power the Web gives us:

This is why I am so passionate about the web and the ability it gives us, to quote David Weinberger, to “write ourselves into existence”, to see the world as made up of connected individuals with the ability to shape their shared future rather than as a mass or ideologically driven herd.

This is also why I feel so motivated to work with the large corporations and institutions that so dominate our modern world. If I can help any of the individuals who make up those organisations to feel a little bit more self aware, a little bit more capable, and a little bit more able to think for themselves and speak for themselves, and to do so as part of networks of others doing the same – then I will have done my job.

I’ve observed that one of the biggest hurdles facing organizations, and people working in them, is to stop thinking of hierarchies and start thinking of networks. Asking, “What do you do for a living?” shows hierarchical thinking, as does “What is your job title?”.  Network-centric questions would be, “What is happening?” or “What are you learning?” or “Who are you learning from?”. No wonder Twitter asks, What’s happening?; Socialcast asks you to share something; Google+ prompts you to share what’s new and Yammer asks, What are you thinking about?

Both Rob and Euan posted their thoughts online today and I have woven them together with my own perspectives. My thinking is a product of my networks. Understanding networks, weaving networks and contributing to networks (the integration of learning & work) are now critical skills in all organizations. Like Euan, I am making progress one person at a time, and there has been progress. I hope it’s fast enough to deal with the increasing complexity and violence.

It’s about networks, stupid, or, as Searls & Weinberger conclude in World of Ends, “We have nothing to lose but our stupidity.

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3 Responses to “It’s about networks”

  1. Brent MacKinnon

    Hi Harold,

    Your post has helped me see and understand my work in networks. It’s kind of a nebulous experience this new way of thinking, learning and working. When you contextualize how working in networks is different than working from a hierarchal framework, it makes my own ground a bit more solid. Perpetual beta takes some getting used to and your post with input from Euan gives me fresh insight as to what’s going on in my world.

    Having a better understanding of my network member role gives me more appreciation for those clinging to the view that their existence is solely dependent on the hierarchy they belong to.

    I so liked Euan Semple’s quote and his reference to David’s Weinberger. Thanks for the link to the World of Ends.

    Brent