Archive for the 'Social Capital' Category

Social Networks as Platforms for Collective Consciousness

At least two things are needed for social networks to become self aware ‘platforms’ for collective intelligence:

  • A much greater percentage of the connections in the network need to be accessible and usable by anyone in the network.
  • The connections need to include information about connection weights.

Connection weights can help individuals and organizations better manage privacy and attention.

Weighted connections and real-time adjustments in the weights can also track reputation and collective desires and can facilitate and reveal collective decisions.

The trick is to add connection weights in a way that is actually usable.

Meta Networks and Global Transformation

In  a great piece written in mid 2007, Paul Hawken reminded us that there is a global meta network (he didn’t use that term) of people and organizations who care deeply about the planet and are working to save it.

He called it the planet’s immune system, now emerging to help us fend off multiple pathologies and terrible threats.

He also said:

  • It’s a decentralized network, not an organization.
  • There is no single hub. (That is, it’s a multi-centered network.)

  • It is not a conventional “movement” where everyone recognizes the same leaders and identical ideologies.

  • “People inside the movement can also underestimate it, basing their judgment on only the organizations they are linked to, even though their networks can only encompass a fraction of the whole. “

This last point is important.  It means that the network already exists, but it’s not yet fully accessible and usable.   Making the network more self-aware and usable is now what is needed, as described more below.

Immune systems are adaptive networks.

Brains are also adaptive networks, which is why many others have also called our interconnected global networks a “global brain.”   Hawken was especially pointing to the part of the global brain that reacts to rigidity, fragmentation, and decay – including abuses of power and environmental threats.

But this same network — people who care about the vitality and prosperity of the whole Earth — is more than just an immune system.  It doesn’t just fight things (disease and injustice, etc.).  It also creates knowledge, tools, and opportunities for growth and fulfillment of individuals, organizations, societies, and (yes) life on earth.

It is really a global network of transformation.

Except, it is not quite all wired up yet.

So, what does a globally intelligent Meta Network need to more fully wake up?

It needs at least these things, which are already available in some form or another, yet still developing:

1. Methods and tools for getting knowledge, talent, and capital to the right people and organizations at the right time.

This includes:

a. Communication tools and social media

We are now swimming in these, and constantly inventing more.

b. Tools for intelligently filtering messages and requests.

This includes tools for reputation, due-diligence, and brokering trust.  Baby tools for these functions now exist.  They need to be much more intelligent and pervasive.

c. Social networking platforms for sharing social capital and trusted referrals

The right tool will need to both enable continuously updated, searchable user profiles and searching the “social graph” for trusted referrals.

d. Network Weaving

Network weaving, and training for network weavers, can help make networks ‘smarter.’ Smart networks have shorter and stronger connection paths that are most useful to network members.   This means that searches will result in more relevant results, and it will be easier to find trusted and influential introductions.  In a smarter network the overall trust will also be higher and knowledge and ideas will flow more quickly to those who need them.

2. Collaboration methods, and the training & experience needed to use them.

E.g., methods such as Dialogue, Appreciative Inquiry, TRIZ, ToP (technologies of participation) and forty or so other especially useful ones.   This is crucial because echo chambers (talking to ourselves) and the inability to communicate effectively (creatively rather than destructively) are killing us.

But this is also especially challenging.  How do we get this, the ability to think productively together, to scale, to become truly pervasive?

To get people to think more constructively together requires not only good methods and training, but also a shift in the consciousness of individuals, for example, developing a level of consciousness that is bigger than their own egos.   To be sure, there are techniques and training for that as well.   Above all, we will need ideology-free techniques as well as traditional techniques preferred by different groups.   However, techniques that help people think together with others who have different backgrounds and opinions can also help bring about a shift in consciousness towards greater openness.  Openness is a great antidote to the bad effects of small egos focused on oneself or a single group.  For more on the connection between collaboration and consciousness see David Bohm’s On Dialogue.  His work is brilliant and his methods are solid; but unfortunately he doesn’t tell us how to make the methods scale.

How do we bring this about? Continue reading ‘Meta Networks and Global Transformation’

Weave Smarter Networks – with LinkedIn?

For me, the definitive paper on “network weaving” is this one:

Building Smarter Communities with Network Weaving
– by Valdis Krebs and June Holley.

Network weaving creates “smarter networks” (defined below).   It works for all types of networks, including networks of organizations or independent individuals, and including all sectors:  Business, government, and civil society.

Valdis’ and June’s paper walks through the basic steps of network weaving, which consist of a) mapping and assessing the network and b) building strategic connections to make it more effective.   Their paper is 17 pages, and includes great illustrative network maps..  If you haven’t read it, it’s really the place to start.

In this post, I’ll point out how networks (and organizations) can use LinkedIn to make network weaving easier and more effective.  But first, here is a bit more background on how and why network weaving works.

What Makes Networks Smart

Continue reading ‘Weave Smarter Networks – with LinkedIn?’

The Yin and Yang of Social Capital

In an earlier post I showed four different types of social capital applications.  But this can be simplified to include only two (the columns in the previous matrix).   These two are:  Inward focused, and Outward expanding.

This inward/outward dichotomy is of course a fundamental principle of energy exchange:  Breathing In, breathing out; Listening, Speaking;  Learning, Teaching;  Receiving, Giving.

The Inward Focused applications of Social Capital are used to first locate needed intelligence, introductions, and influence, and then use the social capital connections to draw those inward (to the person or group that needs them) and focus them on a specific task/need at hand.

The Outward Expanding applications of Social Capital are used to spread a vision, mission, message, opportunity, or desired action, out from the center (a person or group) out to the edges of the network.

Currently, both of these social capital applications are in use – e.g., LinkedIn more for the inward-focused applications, Facebook (and what else especially?) more for the outward.

In a kind of combination effect, outward-oriented campaigns are often used to draw donations, new members, customers, and sometimes ideas back into the organization.   Still, the tools themselves are the Outward, mass-campaign type, rather than more precisely-focused Inward type.

At least a few months ago it seemed that most of the excitement among organizations and consultants was on how organizations and causes can use the Outward, campaign-focused, applications.    Is this still the case?  It is probably changing.   But still interesting to think about why this has been the case.


Related post:

Organizations Amplify Social Capital

Social Capital is Soulful Capital

Social Capital is based on ties of personal trust and affinity, and also on ties of affinity based on mutual goals and values that can exist without needing direct personal connections.   These are soulful connections, in contrast to those forged by more purely transactional and contractual ties, which are mechanical, not soulful.

Three Types of Professional Networks

Here is an excellent article and podcast by Hermania Ibarra, INSEAD Professor and thought-leader in the area of professional networks for managers.

I’m not a daily blogger or blog reader and post and read in spurts, so this article is actually from May. So some of you are likely to have already seen it. I picked it up from Valdis Kreb’s superb blog.

Here are what I felt are the main points of Hermania’s piece:

There are three types of professional networks:

Operational – the people you directly work with to get your job done. Most managers spend a lot of time developing these relationships and neglect the other two types of networks, which are:

Personal Networks – e.g., alumni, professional, social and affinity groups — these allow you to meet a diverse group of like-minded professionals. Good for career moves, and to link you to new kinds of networks for your current work when opportunities emerge there.

Strategic networks -contacts with peers and senior people in your field — toughest but most essential for leaders. Look beyond your industry. Strategic networks are crucial for sharing ideas about best practices, learning new approaches, keeping tabs on developments in business and technology. Helps leaders see the bigger picture.

Managers often fail at networking because many people haven’t developed good network-building practices and skills and feel initially that they’re wasting time. Also many feel that “networking” = using other people, or making superficial relationships.  Not so.  Good networking is reciprocal.

Organizations Amplify Social Capital

Organizations are social capital amplifiers. They collect social capital from the networks of all of their employees, funding sources, board members, partners, advisors, volunteers, donors, consumers, and suppliers. They can then focus social capital on a tightly integrated array of crucial projects that in turn affect the success of the whole organization.

Social media campaigns use social networks as a medium for broadcasting a message or collective action. This is “pushing power to the edges.”

Social capital networks also enable collecting and focusing social capital to accomplish precise tasks of a single team or a single professional working for the organization. This is collecting power from the edges to accomplish work needed in the center.

On the one hand, social media campaigns are becoming well used and understood. (For example, see Momentum: Igniting Social Change in a Connected Age.” On the other hand, using extended social capital networks to get work done within the center of organizations is less well understood and adopted – except by a relative few “networkers” in the organization. Likewise, the tools that can enhance extended social capital applications are far too under-used, largely because of lack of knowledge and focus on why or how to use them. As a result, this means that organizations can currently tap only a tiny fraction of their available social capital.

For more on social capital applications for organizations, networks, and multi-centered meta networks see:

Recent blog post on Types of Social Capital Applications

Short paper: Amplifying Social Capital in Organizations and Networks

Recent blog post on Facebook, LinkedIn and Usefulness for Organizations

Types of Social Capital Applications

Types of Social Capital, originally uploaded by DuncanWork.

The chart above shows four types of social capital that organizations can make use of. The four types are based on whether the social capital is collected and applied internally or externally, or in combination.

The chart also includes a partial list of different social media (“tools”) that can be used to enhance application of social capital in these four arenas.

“Externally derived” (or collected) means that the social capital is coming from trusted, reciprocal relationships that are outside of the organization; and “internally derived” means that the social capital comes from relationships that are inside the core organization.

Also, note that here I’m using the term “social capital” to refer to the help that people give each other freely (not based on contracts or financial exchanges) because of trusted personal relationships, shared values, affinity. Sometimes the term is also used to refer to financial capital that is invested based on social reasons rather than pure financial returns.

How useful is this way of looking at social capital?  My next post will also say more about this, and my earlier post on the different strengths of Facebook and LinkedIn also touches on this.


Share this blog

Bookmark and Share

Categories :

%d bloggers like this: