Most business organizations consist of hierarchy and teams. Hierarchy is the simple hub and spoke network conventionally known as the organizational chart. Teams are a simplistic assembly of roles intended to meet a specific objective. Often, hierarchy and teams are the only network structures recognized in the formal organization. Your Colabria Action Research Networks sees this as a huge mistake. It is an organizational defect. 

Colabria Horses

Business teams likely originated from the concept of driving in-harness equines, dogs, oxen, etc. and sports. Hierarchy originated from military organizations and the Bishops of Rome.

Thing is, there are many other social network patterns in productive organizations besides teams and the silly org chart. There are personal relationships, circles, customers, crews, partners, boards, prospects, squads, retinues, crowds, communities, etc. These are required and perform useful, necessary and real work. These critical network patterns deliver productive outcomes.

Only rarely are these myriad social networks formally called teams. Rather, they use a codeword – collaboration – for actively engaging and serving these disparate and informal networks.   

Strong, embedded teams can sometimes be insular and counterproductive. Fluid, multi & cross-functional social networks are often far more effective.

Recall, project teams are just social networks with a particular link/node pattern suited to specific tasks. Teams are not the be-all, end-all of organizational networks. In fact, teams are waning, in favor of fast-moving, ad hoc and transorganizational social networks.

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Achievement and prosperity requires a wide range of network patterns. Sometimes including formal teams. In reality, it is collaboration, cooperative and collaborative group effort serving a common cause, that is far more important. Coherent and informal social networks are a far better configuration for fast-moving innovation and projects than teams. 

As the trite saying goes, “There is no “I” in team.”  Well, Charley, “There is no “I” in networks either!”

It may be premature to declare the “Death of Team.” However, the clods in the corner offices must no longer be indifferent to the rise of social networks for achieving prosperity.

Still, it is disappointing that historically so much effort is put into shaping and nurturing the simplistic network pattern we call ‘teams.’ Sadly, scarce little time, effort or money is invested developing the myriad other social network patterns necessary for productivity, innovation and positive outcomes. There are encouraging signs this is changing, e.g., crowdsourcing, latent networks, social network analysis, brokering, etc. See —

Unfortunately, the specious, traditional activity of building teams is seen as a good and necessary activity deserving attention and investment. It is at the expense and peril of social network mastery. Contrary to teams, networks are never ‘built,’ only revealed and served. Deliberately revealing and brokering productive social networks, aka socializing and The Social Enterprise, is not yet seen as a mainstream activity. It’s changing fast. The social reorientation of work is fundamentally altering the enterprise landscape. Social networks and The Social Enterprise are propelling the future of business prosperity.


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