The underestimated power of networking

IIn many orga­ni­za­tions there is now an enter­prise social net­work. That’s sim­ply because it’s what you do today, and because the younger employ­ees in par­tic­u­lar are well versed in social media and appre­ci­ate and expect this kind of com­mu­ni­ca­tion. How­ev­er, few employ­ees and even few­er man­agers have under­stood nei­ther the shift of pow­er such a enter­prise social net­work can mean nor the cre­ative poten­tial of networking.

In his speech to the Enquete Com­mis­sion Inter­net and Dig­i­tal Soci­ety of the Ger­man Bun­destag on July 3, 2010, Prof. Dr. Peter Kruse very suc­cinct­ly explained the rev­o­lu­tion­ary explo­sive­ness of the Inter­net and espe­cial­ly that of social media. A high degree of con­nec­tiv­i­ty, high spon­ta­neous activ­i­ty and cir­cu­lar stim­u­la­tion lead to non-lin­ear effects. The bet­ter peo­ple are con­nect­ed and the eas­i­er it is to share some­thing quick­ly and the bet­ter these con­tents can cir­cu­late, the soon­er and the more pow­er­ful are such viral, non-lin­ear effects. In prin­ci­ple, these can nei­ther be planned nor pre­dict­ed; at best it is pos­si­ble to be close to the mar­kets and con­ver­sa­tions in order to devel­op a “feel­ing for the res­o­nance pat­terns of soci­ety” (Peter Kruse).

Being able to reach many peo­ple with­in a very short time and find­ing res­o­nance ulti­mate­ly means pow­er. Or a threat to the pre­vail­ing pow­er struc­tures, which are also always based on an infor­ma­tion­al edge and an imbal­ance in the means and chan­nels of com­mu­ni­ca­tion. The author­i­ties and their opin­ions also find res­o­nance in social net­works, but oth­ers as well and per­haps even more so. Or in the words of Peter Kruse:“You get an extreme­ly pow­er­ful cus­tomer, an extreme­ly pow­er­ful employ­ee and an extreme­ly pow­er­ful citizen.”

But why should this shift in pow­er be brought into the orga­ni­za­tion in the form of an enter­prise social net­work? Because this res­o­nance by far is not only to be seen in a neg­a­tive light, but also offers a demo­c­ra­t­ic-cre­ative res­o­nance space for top­ics and ideas. And these will be the ideas con­cern­ing the organization’s future: inno­va­tions, improve­ments and new busi­ness ideas. Or sim­ply the short chan­nels of ser­vice to help a cus­tomer very pragmatically.

How­ev­er, the breed­ing grounds for these effects are less rel­e­vant and some­times also triv­ial com­mu­ni­ca­tion, which serves to estab­lish and deep­en links between peo­ple. Viewed in iso­la­tion, it is there­fore of lit­tle use and looks like a waste of time when peo­ple pho­to­graph and share their food. But per­haps it is pre­cise­ly this shared pas­sion for bar­be­cue that cre­ates the deci­sive links for a ground­break­ing inno­va­tion. Humans are social beings. Com­mu­ni­ties, how­ev­er, are based on trust and each of these small seem­ing­ly point­less inter­ac­tions cre­ates a bit of trust by dis­cov­er­ing and devel­op­ing similarities.

Pow­er is of two kinds. One is obtained by the fear of pun­ish­ment and the oth­er by acts of love. Pow­er based on love is a thou­sand times more effec­tive and per­ma­nent then the one derived from fear of punishment.
Mahat­ma Gandhi

There would be many rea­sons to take good care of an enter­prise social net­work, so that high con­nec­tiv­i­ty, spon­ta­neous activ­i­ty and cir­cu­lar stim­u­la­tion cre­ate non-lin­ear effects. For the employ­ees, because they gain pow­er and can con­tribute in a holis­tic way beyond their roles, but also for the man­age­ment, because they quick­ly see what is rel­e­vant to the employ­ees and what is cur­rent­ly capa­ble of res­onat­ing in the orga­ni­za­tion. The pre­req­ui­site for this, how­ev­er, is a well-devel­oped capac­i­ty for empa­thy on the part of the for­mal­ly pow­er­ful ones.

Prac­ti­cal expe­ri­ence shows, how­ev­er, that the use of the enter­prise social net­work is at best half­heart­ed and incon­sis­tent. It is being intro­duced because this is what you do now, and because oth­ers are doing it as well and because employ­ees are demand­ing it. How­ev­er, net­work­ing and spon­ta­neous activ­i­ty are then con­scious­ly or uncon­scious­ly sup­pressed or at least not con­sis­tent­ly pro­mot­ed. Net­work­ing is often only pos­si­ble in the already known con­text of the orga­ni­za­tion, i. e. with­in the respec­tive depart­ment or project and often in closed groups. The activ­i­ty is then lim­it­ed to the flow of infor­ma­tion in the usu­al direc­tion of descend­ing pow­er. Real dis­cus­sions on oth­er top­ics are rare and are often dis­missed as a waste of time (“Does­n’t he have any­thing to do?”) From the per­spec­tive of the pow­er­ful, this may be under­stand­able, but it is not par­tic­u­lar­ly wise and far­sight­ed. For all oth­ers, how­ev­er, the fol­low­ing applies:

If you want to achieve great­ness, stop ask­ing for permission!
Eddie Col­la

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