Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Network aspects: communication, a whitepaper on Networks in Organizations' and why social intelligence is an asset (also in business)


One of the difficult parts of eLearning is to get a community going. The separation of students, the cultural differences and the loss of non-verbal communication can affect the learning network between learners (be it students or employee learners). Networks and communication is becoming increasingly important, but networks have many dynamics working within them. This post combines insights on working within a network as a person, the dynamics of networks in an organization and a suite-and-tie movie from Harvard Business on the topic of social intelligence.

(picture from Neuronal Networks, post Neurons Firing)

Keeping everyone involved (title taken from Steven Egan's post on the subject)
Steven Egan is a blogger who combines new technology - mainly games for playful learning - with new networking community spirit. Building on some comments he gave, this post took shape, so I am very grateful for his input.
He takes a closer look to conflict resolution: dividing it into 'ask before you explode!' on keeping communication going, 'be nice to everybody' on keeping your language respectful no matter what or who. Things to do: 'Don't sweat the big stuff' on giving room to long term goals and creativity, 'sweat the small stuff' (this idea is nicely put). And the ever important Show and Tell: 'make it always available' and 'make it easily available'.
I really liked this post because it is simple, yet if I look at my days and communications, I sometimes forget the simple rules. I really liked Steven's rules to keep a network interested.

Whitepaper on networks in organizations
A more formal and management approach, but still linked to networks can be found in this whitepaper. Jeffrey Stamps and Jessica Lipnack have just published their whitepaper on 'Applying the New Science of Networks to Organizations', which focuses on when and how networks are formed within organizations and corporations.

There intro to the paper goes like this: "NetAge Working Papers set out a new theory and practice for organizations. We feel compelled to publish these technical papers now as an urgent response to the collapse of traditional hierarchies and bureaucracies as evidenced by the current economic debacle. As the economic crisis deepens in 2009, we believe that now is the time for new ideas, new concepts, and new theory to come forward, approaches that will allow all kinds of organizations whether large or small to reorganize in smarter, better, and faster ways."

And although not everything they mention is as clear to me as it would be to experienced managers, it does make sense. Especially if you are a knowledge worker in a growing institution. So if you are interested in natural networks within organizations, this might be of interest to you. The whitepaper was brought to my attention by Johanna Bragge from the Helsinki School of Economics.
The only thing I wonder about is whether this hierarchy is also forming in informal networks? I mean, would certain persons be (unconsciously) given a different place in an informal network because of the dynamic that naturally looks for people with certain responsibilities. Or as Klingon history recalls: 'Great people do not seek power, they have power thrust upon them'; taken from the Deep Space 9 episode Tacking into the Wind (I did change the 'men' into people).

The importance of social intelligence
For those doubting if social skills mean anything in this new economically challenged year, a ten minute movie on 'Social Intelligence and the biology of Leadership', a movie delivered by Harvard Business interviewing the psychologist Daniel Goleman.



If you look at the interview, you do feel a bit of old school dynamics going on, not really new talk here, but it is nice to see it against a background of this new communications era.