September 5th, 2012
The fourth post in a series.
Your organizational chart matters. A little.
In a lot of ways it does not. Ideas, information, trust, influence, opportunity and other resources move through networks of relationships without necessarily adhering to what the org chart says. Social network analysis tools now allow us to make the invisible visible so that we can be more deliberate in our approach to networks. There are a couple of big opportunities here:
- Good ideas often have social origins. Innovation is fueled by the exchange of ideas and perspectives and identities, and the accompanying creative tension. It is in this exchange that we have the opportunity to recombine and synthesize, generating brand new opportunities. By deliberately and proactively building networks we can create more of those valuable intersections.
- Get folks really included. Hiring someone as an employee in your organization does not necessarily mean they are going to be included. Are employees able to get connected in the ways that they need to — regardless of age, title, gender, race, etc.? Can you be more intentional in helping employees to find their way into the networks of relationships that they need to thrive? I see a lot of organizations that have engagement and retention rates that vary by race, age and gender. Underneath that are substantial differences in the size, reach and makeup of the social networks that people are connected to
“Where do good ideas come from? That is simple … from differences. Creativity comes from unlikely juxtapositions. The best way to maximize differences is to mix ages, cultures and disciplines.”
-Nicolas Negroponte, founder MIT Media Lab
What do the networks of relationships look like in your organization? Are there opportunities to build new bridges in your organization? Is there a lot of overlap and interconnectivity in your organization, or is there a lot of silos and segregation? Are there opportunities to bring new voices into existing conversations and decision making processes?
Start by considering what your own network looks like using this quick and simple analysis from Achieving Success Through Social Capital, written by Wayne Baker. For each question, write down up to five names:
- From time to time people discuss important matters with other people. Looking back over the past six months, who are the people with whom you discussed matters important to you?
- Consider the people you communicate with in order to get your work done. Of all the people you have communicated with during the last six months, who has been the most important for getting your work done?
- Consider an important project or initiative that you are involved in. Consider the people who would be influential for getting it approved or obtaining the resources you need. Who would you talk to, to get the support you need?
- Whom do you socialize with (spending time with people after work hours, visiting one another at home, going to social events or out for meals, and so on)? Over the last 6 months, who are the main people with whom you have socialized informally?
Now take a look at the list of names that these questions generate. Do you see a lot of difference? If not, you might be better served by finding your way to having access to more perspectives and experiences. There is real benefit to you and to your organization.
If you want more diversity in your network of relationships, then start going to different places. You will know you have found your way there when you feel a a little uncomfortable.
Once you have given some thought to your own network, think about what the network for your team would look like and how that might impact the ideas, information, resources and people that you have (or do not have) access to. Think about what it might look like for your organization and what kind of meaning that might have.
One of the great things about this particular approach is that you probably do not need a budget or advanced training or permission to start creating connections.
Start re-wiring your organization.
Be good to each other.