Someone remarked the other day, “Our problem at work is that we don’t have a social network yet.”
We call this thinking Victorian Networks since the primitive thinking is akin to Victorian-era medical practices. Many of those practices were based on the theory of humorism not science. Stunning network naivety is pervasive. It must be corrected.
Lesson One: ALL human organization is a social network. You can never not have a social network! (?)
This is what anthropologists, sociologists, scientists, economists and (some) practitioners know. Social networks are omnipresent, pervasive and the foundation of all human existence. Always have been always will be. They are the foundational logic of ALL organizations, markets, ecosystems and civil society. The social network is the unit of analysis.
Note: it’s possible the person meant a social networking service (SNS). These platform services have little to do with social networks or SNA. These applications are called social for marketing purposes. They are social insofar as they ease interconnection of network actors.
Social networks and SNA do not depend or are even related to the so-called social networking applications like enterprise collaboration tools, dating services or alumni applications. Too often shiny objects like fancy interactive applications distract people from really developing any comprehension of their social networks.
Breakthrough Social Media?
The rush to call everything social bears the question, “Do you call your telephone a social network voice device?” Are pens and notepads “cellulose-based social media?” It’s getting ridiculous. Gee, you know the most pervasive social media by far? Yep, it’s email.
The crushing irony of all this nonsense is that in personal life people are highly aware of their social networks. They compose, nurture, protect and serve them with alacrity. The simple proposition is to move these essential behaviors into the workplace.
Oddly, it is only when people cross the threshold of ‘work’ that the absolute foundation of all human activity, social networks, magically disappears. This is a direct throwback to Fordism – the deliberate elimination of skilled labor in favor of mindless automata. It is very bizarre and pathological.
Rejecting social networks and analysis is a classic anti-pattern. Its why event the most rudimentary social graphs have such a profound effect in reenergizing and remediation organizational activities.
People inhabit many social networks at work. Your work is a social network. The point is to use powerful techniques to see, identify, comprehend, optimize and serve your networks better.
For example, there are a lot of struggling managers and practitioners trying to better understand organizations. Often, they are highly dismissive of the underlying structure of organizations, social networks and SNA.
For enterprise leaders, please, the next time you go to your doctor with an ailment, for a checkup, for a broken bone or surgery, kindly ask the doctor or surgeon you prefer she use no visualization technologies like x-ray or MRI.
Tell her, please do not use lab analytics or blood workups. No diagnostics either. Say please doctor, no arthroscopy, laparoscopy or stethoscope for me. If she says sphygmomanometer to measure your blood pressure, you say, ‘no way.’
Instead, like today’s management authorities, say you much prefer a far more Victorian-era approach. Contemporary managers people behave like Victorian-era doctors. There is a ton of management quackery. It’s tantamount to telling your doctor you want bleeding, plastering, purging, sweating, blistering, and, above all, amputation.
Rejection or delay of known, basic social network visualization, analytics and common network structures and properties of organizations is plainly irresponsible.
Meanwhile, remember, SNA is comprehensive organizational tomography. It’s the ICU for dysfunctional orgs. Like the social networks that comprise your organization, it is there, waiting and ready when you are.
Network visualization and analytics allows deliberate nurturing and optimization of networks. The outcomes are emergence and mutation of new entirely new, more far productive organizational forms. Network theory and SNA establishes high-performance organizations, sustaining innovative ecosystems and propelling long-term prosperity.