Sunday, December 31, 2006

In the New Year, I resolve to...

weave better networks... for myself and others.

But, be careful whose advice you follow! Here are two contrasting pieces of advice emanating from Chicago.

First, Betsy Hart of the Chicago Sun Times relates her experience...

It used to make me crazy when people would invite my then-husband and me over to dinner, only to discover that another couple we'd never met had been included because the hosts thought we would ''just love these folks.''

Whether we did or not, we'd have to spend the whole night making small talk and asking, ''So, how old are your kids?'' I was at a stage in life where I didn't want to learn how old someone's kids were. I just wanted to relax with people I already knew.

Just being with people you know is easy and safe -- no effort, nor risk required. But it gets you a dull network -- everyone knows everyone else, everyone agrees with everyone else, and everyone hears what is going on at the same time. This is OK for friendship networks, but not good for business networks, nor for those of us who like a little variety in our friends and opportunities in our networks.

Ron Burt, Professor of Sociology and Strategy at the University of Chicago, is one of the top experts on social capital in the world. His advice is different. He suggests we focus on those who are different, rather than on those we are already connected to.

They have broader access to information because of their diverse contacts. That means they are more often aware of new opportunities, and aware earlier than their peers.

Below is a diagram from Ron's work that shows the difference in the two types of networks. James has chosen the easy redundant strategy, while Robert has chosen the more difficult diverse contacts strategy. As Ron goes on to explain in this short article [PDF], it is Robert who has the advantage because of his network structure. Robert weaves a better network from the same starting point as James -- he is a network entrepreneur.

Enjoy a productive New Year in your entrepreneurial network!

UPDATE: Here is an excellent article on building business networks from the Harvard Business Review [PDF]. Though this article focuses on corporate managers, the advice is useful for those working in the not-for-profit sector and for community builders. Take note of their advice on the network change required when moving from being a manager to being a leader.

Notice how the HBR avice in building a strategic network meshes with Burt's advice on building a diverse network.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Connections, Cognition and Ca$h

Good things are happening in the Cuyahoga Valley.

People and organizations are connecting, and money is pouring in. Connections, Cognition, and Cash, the necessary base for a good Innovation Soup, are being cooked in a pot that has been empty too long.

A standing room only crowd [eager for good news?] was at the press conference where the Third Frontier investments in the area were announced. My first alma mater, Cleveland State University, partnered with 32 others for their winning grant on sensor systems -- weave that network! Other Cuyahoga Valley winners included the University of Akron, Swagelok, GrafTech, Kent Displays, Cleveland Clinic [20 collaborators!], Case Western Reserve University and University Hospitals.

I am working with Currere and the Cuyahoga Valley Initiaive to map the networks of collaborative activity in the valley. After doing this type of work all around the world, it is nice to be working in my own backyard! If you work in the Cuyahoga Valley, or collaborate with those that do, please fill out our network survey.

Ask any chef, and s/he will tell you that a good soup needs a good base. An economic chef will tell you that the prime ingredients for a good economic soup includes connecting smart people and giving them funds and freedom to develop their ideas -- and then letting the mixture self-organize under the right conditions.

Mmmm... good!

Saturday, December 09, 2006


Today I attended a conference on digital media at the Cleveland Institute of Art -- affectionately called "CIA" on the North Shore. A great group of people showed up.

But I could not "get" the title of the conference -- defrag??? It is something I used to do to my Windows computers when they would slow down after several months of use. So I looked up "defrag" on the web...

A process whereby parts of data files on all segments of a computer hard disk are taken from their fragmented state (with parts of files spread all over the disk), and grouped together in complete-file segments. This makes it quicker for applications to find the files they need and frees up disk space, making the computer run more efficiently.

Key phrases: "parts spread all over", "grouped together", "make it quicker to find", "run more efficiently"

Oh, I get it now... "defrag" is the geek's way of saying "networkweaving". Defragging and networkweaving accomplish the same goal -- they take a complex distribution of information and knowledge and re-organize it for more efficient processing. Of course in defragging human systems we are not just looking for efficiency alone, but also discovery, innovation and growth.

Maybe our new elevator spiel should be: "We defrag organizations and communities". What do you think?

Saturday, December 02, 2006

The power of the network

Riffing of our Plexus Institute conference call yesterday: when we want to create a broader set of connections around any project we have on our plate, we need to help people get clear on our goals, short and long term. The clearer they are on our goals, the easier it is to connect us to people and resources we cannot predict or anticipate.

This is the power of knowing and knitting any network: access to resources we cannot predict or anticipate.

Monday, November 27, 2006


June and I chatted this morning about the centrality of innovation in our network weaving work. Everyone we work with is after one or both kinds of change: scaling what you're already doing, and doing something new (innovation).

Network weaving is particularly powerful with innovation because we're connecting people with the kind of diversity that is always essential to the R&D of innovation. Diversity of ideas, perspectives, intentions, resources, access, and opportunities. The more we connect with people outside our personal (1st) circle, the diversity becomes more and more guaranteed.

Of course learning how to connect these people in collaboration toward innovation is a social technology that we will continue to offer in our workshops

Saturday, November 25, 2006

WWW - World Wide Weaving

Local network weaving is great, but global network weaving is better!

I am blogging from Riga, Latvia, where this week I participated in some great meetings and some great introductions.

Above is a simple network map of the organizations involved. The links show who has collaborated with whom before this week. All of the organizations, except for, are from the EU -- most from Latvia. After having worked with a great group of new media artists @ RIXC and some brilliant mathematicians and computer guys @ SIS, I knew it was time for some introductions. All of the above organizations/groups were represented at the meeting in the Old Town section of Riga. One introduction led to another, and soon plans were being formulated for future projects, sharing technology, new conferences, teaching classes, and introductions to possible sources of finance.

The network below depicts the group after the week, with the green links revealing productive introductions that were made and are currently being pursued for collaboration and innovation.

Compare the "closed triangles" between the two network diagrams... see how connectivity grows?

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Making Introductions

patternHunter observes...

One of the challenges with "social networking" sites is that most are more correctly "social linking" sites.

...they are all like bad parties where everyone is gathered in small circles with their backs to anyone new. One of the benefits of a good host/hostess (other than attracting an interesting crowd) is his/her ability to introduce individuals to other individuals who are likely to share some kind of interest. To my knowledge, no social networking site is particularly good at making introductions and most do not even try.

Right on. We train networkweavers to make useful & actionable introductions.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Location, location, location

In an adaptive, networked environment, the primacy of location moves from geography to netography.

In the netography, it matters whether we're in the core or the periphery. Location in the core puts us in a prime position to be guardian of the network's core principles, values, assets, and relationships. Location in the periphery puts us in a prime position to be boundary spanners, inter-network weavers and the shameless idea butterflies and bumblebees. Moving from and between core and periphery in any network changes the scope of our opportunities for strategic serendipity.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Expanding our scope through our networks

I continue to get good traction from the distinction of our 3 circles. Our first circle includes people we know well - we and they have a "relationship." Our second circle includes people we know of, but don't have a relationship with. Our second circle people are usually our first circle's first circle. Third circle people are those we don't even know exist, yet we are nonetheless connected to in 2 steps - we know someone (in our first circle) who knows someone (in our second circle) who know them (in our third circle).

Increasing the scope of new knowledge, ideas, or resources can happen in at least 3 ways:

1. Interacting more with first circle people who we only interact with infrequently
2. Interacting more with people in our second circle
3. Interacting more with people in our third circle

Friday, September 22, 2006

Welcome to our Network!

We had a productive day today, getting our web site up, preparing for our next conference, and accomplishing quite a bit around Jack's dining room table -- proving once again that "a day face-to-face is worth a thousand emails!"

Thanks to Steve Goldberg for stopping by and taking our picture.

Monday, September 18, 2006

The Trust Equation 1.0 !

This is a 1.0 version of a formula for measuring trust in relationships. It's intended to use a formula for assessing the complex and intangible dynamic of trust.

It basically says that trust is the multiplication of weighted expectations and delivery on expectations, divided by the multiplication of expectation clarity and usefulness of feedback. It's actually based on intensive work I've done recently in client organizations on trust building between individuals, managers and departments.

And here's the process:

1. In the case of trust between two people, each person lists their 5 top expectations of each other in categories including what they depend on from each other in the areas of information, help, and outcomes. Then for each, they identify on a 1-5 scale (low-high) how important each expectation is to them - this creates a list of weighted expectations. These scores are added for a total weighted expectation score.

2. Then each person assesses how well (again on the 1-5 scale) the other usually delivers on each of these expectations. The scores are totalled for a delivery score. The two numerator scores are then multiplied for a total top number.

3. Then the other person creates the denominator number. If I'm assessing June's performance against my weighted expectations for the numerator of the equation, June is doing the denominator. She assesses on the 1-5 scale how clearly I usually communicate each of these top 5 expectations. Then she assesses on the 1-5 scale, the usefulness of feedback she usually gets from me on her delivery on these expectations. Then these two figures are added for a total and multiplied for my denominator score. I do the same for her denominator score.

4. Then the differences are calculated for a total trust score.

So now we get have a conversation about questions like:

Is there an "ideal" score range?
Are there other variables the formula needs to consider?
If the point of the process is the conversation, how are results best interpreted?

Sunday, September 17, 2006

NOLA Networks

Many people think that all post-Katrina recovery efforts are fragmented and failing. Although many of the formal organizations are falling over each other, and over the debris that is still in the streets, community networks are self-organizing and emerging in New Orleans and elsewhere in the devastated region.

A month ago, I got an email from Sarah who is working with ThinkNOLA. She inquired...

Through the New Orleans Wiki we've documented significant social relationships and organizational connections between board members in the key recovery agencies, both governmental and quasi-governmental. Do you have any suggestions for producing visual representations of this information?

I said, "Sure, put your data into this link/relationship format, send it to me, and I will map it for you." BTW, this is a great use of WIKI technology -- a common place for people to store/edit/update the relationships/flows they find.

We went through several iterations of data and soon had some maps. The network above is a combination of all 8 relationships we mapped. It shows how over 1000 organizations and individuals are connected in various recovery projects.

The NOLA network has grown to the 'multiple hubs' stage that we described in this white paper: Building Smart Communities through Network Weaving [PDF]. ThinkNOLA and their colleagues are examining the first set of maps to see where they are -- who is connected, who is not and who should be. They will then weave the network where necessary.

An iterative process: know the net, knit the net... repeat.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Building Community Through Innovation in Belize or Anywhere

I got an email today from a dear friend who is promoting sustainable development in small remote Mayan villages in Belize. She has done a marvelous job, working with villagers to set up a computer center for the village children (who are now computer wizards!), using donated computers from folks in Athens, Ohio. She's also helped mostly young women in the village set up income generating businesses, gathered up a container full of books from U.S. friends to stock the new high school's library, and helped raise money for disbaled children to get needed operatons. All this while respecting the culture and encouraging local leadership.

Now she is raising funds to set up an Innovation Fund that will encourage people in the villages to initiate small, doable but innovative and collaborative projects for their communities. The projects must match the seed funds with their own labor, and need to include young people and a diversity of villagers. I'm willing to match any donation you make dollar for dollar up to $500.00! To learn more about this delightful project check out Interamerican InterAction's web site. If you send a donation, put "Innovation Fund" on the check so I'll know to match it!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Smart Networks Workshop

Weaving Smart Networks: Building Capacity for Positive Change in Organizations and Communities will be held in Washington, DC on October 12-13, 2006. The workshop is intended people already engaged in change and innovation who want to learn to apply networking strategies to increase the scale and impact of their activities.

For more information, see the full brochure with registration form at Plexus Institute's web site

Jack, June and Valdis will all be participating.

For more information, email or

Thursday, August 17, 2006

The Strengths-Based Approach to Key Roles in the Creation of Change

When it comes to making change in communities and organizations, there are a few key roles that make change possible.

One group is the group of innovators, visionaries, and entrepreneurs. These are the people who have the power of dreams.

Another is the group of formal leaders who have the power to develop people's capacity for change. These are the people who have the power of development.

Another is the group of informal leaders who also develop capacity for change - but all through invitation. These are the people who have the power of facilitation.

There is the group of managers who have the formal community/organizational responsibility and resources to engage people in making changes happen. They are the people who have the power of assignment.

Finally, there is the group of network weavers who can be in any of these three groups and who facilitate new relationships to serve new outcomes related to the changes taking place. They are the people who have the power of connecting.

What's interesting and important to understand is that all five roles can overlap and all five roles are necessary for successful change.

One person can play one or more or all roles while another can and will play only one of these roles. There are several factors determining how many roles people can play at a time:
  • The scope of the formal power and access to resources they have
  • Their strengths in terms of knowledge and skills
  • The strength of their personal networks
  • Their commitment to change & willingness to engage in it
  • Their personal bandwidth of time and energy

One of the core elements that makes any of these roles effective is that they are approached from a strengths-based perspective.

This perspective is characterized by an emphasis on knowing and engaging people's strengths - what and who they do know, what they can do, what they do have, what they do want, what's working for them and what they're achieving and why.

The other aspect is to re-focus people when conditions and events cause them too naturally get distracted with their deficiencies - what and who they don't know, what they can't do, what they don't have, what they don't want, what's not working and what they're not achieving and why.

This is an excerpt from an upcoming book, "Dream Space" (2007 Jack Ricchiuto)

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Strategic network-focused design

Interesting discussion recently with a health care organization about designing new programs. They liked the idea of different strategies for people at the cores and peripheries of specific ethnic market segments - such as here on the South Coast of the Great Lakes - with the Chinese, Hispanic, and Indian communities/networks.

For people at the cores of these communities, programs need to be designed with an eye to managing their traditions. For people at the peripheries, programs can be more "mainstreamed" in look, feel, and function design.

Monday, July 24, 2006

From a "quiet crisis"...

... to a very loud "You Suck!"


The Cleveland Plain Dealer, the last major paper in town, used to write about the "quiet crisis" in NE Ohio -- how the economy was fading, and no one was doing anything about it. Sunday, they took the gloves off. BAM! A right hook to formal Economic Development [fED] in Cleveland.

As usual the mainstream media, gets the story, but gets it late. The local grapevine was questioning the mission and performance of these ED organizations years ago. The whispering grew louder and has now been sufficiently amplified for the whole region to hear.

I am glad the mirror has been cleaned off to reflect more accurately.

All is not lost in Cleveland. Just like after a forest fire, new sprouts emerge and start a new ecosystem. Entrepreneurship is on the move in NE Ohio. From many boot-strapped home-based businesses to locally funded start-ups, the economy is still alive. But, no large companies [yet], to replace the auto, steel and rubber industries that have died, or move south to retire.

When we lived in Los Angeles, one of the things that amazed me was all of the entrepreneurial activity there. I worked for some very good corporations in LA [Toyota, TRW, and Disney] and everywhere I went my colleagues were either planning a start-up, or actually had one working in their garage [no basements there]. I started my software business in a garage in Redondo Beach, CA.

That activity is starting to appear here in Cleveland. The sprouts are peeking through. The fEDs don't see them yet -- and actually step on quite a few. But the roots are down and the young vegetation keeps growing. A new forest is growing in Cleveland!

Saturday, July 22, 2006

How Do We Track Networks of the Gift Economy?

One of the powerful dynamics of successful entrepreneurial networks is the use of complex reciprocity (or what anthropologists call a gift economy) to keep knowledge and resources circulating in a way that results in extraordinary economic value. The dynamic starts with network weavers sharing generously—providing important information about trends, markets, people and so forth. Entrepreneurs quickly translate this information into economic gain: they buy a piece of used equipment for much less than they had expected, they draw on the know-how of an experienced entrepreneur to develop superior products, or they gain entrĂ©e into a large grocery chain very quickly because someone shares the name of their key contact.

Next, staff encourage entrepreneurs to share generously among themselves, knowing that this behavior primes the pump of exchange and results in much more knowledge and resource sharing by others back to them. It is amazing how quickly the transition to this type of mutual sharing behavior occurs, even though entrepreneurs continue to compete fiercely with each other in many ways.

Network researchers, how do we measure this kind of complex flow? How do we track the shifts in values and behaviors that take place in a move to a gift economy? At what point does a phase shift take place, transforming the whole economic system?

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The intriguing intersection between complexity and networks: killer hens or cooperative cluckers?

One of the most exciting frontiers of this decade is the place where Social Network Analysis and Complexity Science are cross fertilizing. That's where we Network Weaving bloggers love to hang out!

Valdis just sent an email pointing to the proceeddings from the 6th International Conference on Complexity. Check it out--especially David Sloan Wilson's conversation about group evolution. Turns out that if you only breed the most productive chicken, you end up with a henhouse of agressive killers. You have much better success if you select all the hens in the most productive henhouse to breed. In this case, you're selecting for the cooperative skills of the entire group. Believe me, undergirding this kind of cooperation is a Smart Network!

If you are interested in the intersection of complexity and networks, you might want to consider joining the Plexus Institute -- only $100 a year to stay in touch with the latest research and practice in the field. An action group is organizing a series of events during the coming year to encourage the continued exploration of networks and complexity. If you are interested in becoming involved, just let us know!

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

How Accidental Conversations Create a Car Full of Zucchini

One of the critical characteristics of Smart Networks is that they have expanding, very productive peripheries. If we look at where we’ve gotten some of the breakthrough ideas in our lives, we’d see that our peripheries are often linked into our core networks from what Jack calls accidental conversations.

At a National Business Incubation Association luncheon many years ago, I sat down next to an "older blonde with poofy hair" . Although I made some stupid assumptions, thinking the conversation would be of no value, I had a delightful accidental conversation. She shared with me a remarkable innovation she had been developing—a Kitchen Incubator, a licensed processing facility where entrepreneurs can rent the use of equipment to make their products. At ACEnet, we had been struggling for a way to help low-income farmers add value to their produce. Light bulbs started flashing — this is a way to help hundreds of farmers become food entrepreneurs!

ACEnet grabbed this idea, developed their own unique adaptation, made their Kitchen Incubator a huge success, and then shared their success with other low-income communities. The result: over 100 Kitchen Incubators around the country, helping thousands of low-income individuals start food processing businesses.

We would love to hear stories from you. Tell the rest of us about an accidental conversation you had that not only expanded your periphery but led to a breakthrough innovation. What is it that enables us to sort through the dozens of accidental conversations we might have every week and discover the seed that will sprout into a prolific zucchini bush, with its seemingly unending bounty of squash?

Why do people in Appalachia lock their cars?
To keep their neighbors from filling them with excess zucchini!

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Social network bandwidth

Interesting conversation today with friend and colleague Tom Carlson who's fast becoming a raving social network fan. Actually, it's always in our blood until we discover the framework that unleashes it.

Anyway, we were talking about rating the quality of our connections on a -10 to +10 scale. As it turns out, each of us, given everything on our personal plates, have finite bandwidth of time and energy we can give to the quality of our connections. It is our experience that our strong +9 and 10 connections often require more care and feeding than our more superficial +2 and 3 connections.

So we can visualize having a bandwidth of, say, 50 points on any given week on personal and professional scales. If we have two +9's, that leaves 32 points to distribute among maybe a few of +4's and 5's and a handful of +2's and 3's.

If people want to close triangles in our behalf, we may want to be intentional about honoring both the core and perifery opportunities in our personal networks. On the whole, keeping a balance of diversity and continuity serves us all.

I am also considering that there are other principles at play and it may be interesting to hold assumptions lightly, in the spirit of dialogue.

Maybe there's a bell curve of time and energy/effort along the quality continuum from 0 to +10, where investment is less required at the ends and more at the middle! Maybe up in the 9's and 10's, the trust equity makes this more self-sustaining, so we have the benefit of having many high quality connections, ranging in interaction frequencies from daily to once in a blue moon.

Just putting it out there for the dialogue, now that I am far more clear on what I don't know : )

Friday, June 23, 2006

Network Weaving 101

One of the basic building blocks of weaving networks is "closing of triangles". A triangle exists between three people in a social network. An "open triangle" is where there is an opportunity to introduce two people by the third person who knows them both -- it is a triangle with one missing link like in the diagram immediately below. A "closed triangle" is where all three people know each other.

Here we see our friend and colleague Ed Morrison, of iOpen, connected to two of his clients -- the economic development folks in both Lexington, KY and Oklahoma City, OK. He knows each of these groups, but they do not know each other. Much could be learned if both of these groups shared their economic development experiences with each other -- innovation happens at the intersections.

But you can't introduce groups to groups, or organizations to organizations -- it works better by introducing people to people. So, Ed picked two leaders from each group to close the triangle. He picked Cynthia Reid at the Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce[OKC] and Lynda Brabowski of Commerce Lexington[CLX]. This triangle is illustrated below.

When Lynda expressed a desire to Ed for CLX to visit another region that they could learn from, Ed immediately knew the answer -- visit OKC, who previously had faced similar issues and handled them very well. Ed, also knew which introduction to make -- a network weaver needs to know WHOM to connect by knowing the people, the groups, and the dynamics involved in the connections that are being made. The closed triangle -- after Ed's introduction -- is shown below.

This was not the end of this weaving opportunity. Ed accompanied the CLX folks on their visit with OKC. During the trip he closed a few more triangles. Ed introduced the CLX group to two of the key architects of the economic blossoming in Oklahoma City, Ron Norrick -- the former mayor that started the effort, and Burns Hargis a key OKC board member. Those closed triangles are below.

The cool thing about closing triangles is that anyone can do it, and you do not need anyone's permission to do it! Close triangles around you wherever and whenever you see an opportunity. You and your community will benefit.

Just do it!

Here is Ed's write-up of the above -- connecting of two regions.

I was first tipped off to this by Brewed Fresh Daily -- where Cleveland and NEO goes to find out what is REALLY happening!

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Cleveland Entrepreneurs & Their Colleagues

Entrepreneurs for Sustainability[E4S] is a NE Ohio network of entrepreneurs and change agents from business, government, academia and non-profit sectors who are implementing sustainability principles. They celebrated the Open House of their new work/meeting space this week. Included in that celebration was a network map of almost 600 NE Ohio entrepreneurs and their colleagues who run sustainable businesses in the Cleveland-Akron-Canton-Youngstown Ohio region.

As with most network maps, this one [printed wall size], soon had a crowd around it pointing, laughing, taking notes & pictures, and discussing. Several people, who did not find themselves on the map, quickly filled out a network survey form which were judiciously placed below the map. Entrepreneurs, and their support organizations, are connected on the map if they share information, advice, or ideas with each other in the execution of their business. [The map above does not contain the names of the entrepreneurs, nor their businesses.]

The three purple nodes in the center of the diagram are Holly Harlan, Courtney DeOreo, and Stephanie Strong -- the leaders of E4S. They are all excellent network weavers. Holly, the founder of E4S, and one of the top network weavers in NE Ohio, is fun to watch at a gathering as she makes one key introduction after another.

E4S is not just growing in size, it is growing in connectivity!

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Regional Innovation Networks Workshop

June 29 & 30
Open Source Economic Development: New Practices and Tools for Economic Development - an invigorating curriculum for leaders to create and lead collaborations, map and enhance regional networks, jumpstart innovation, engage in “strategic doing” and measure results.

Workshop Presenters
Ed Morrison
June Holley
Valdis Krebs
Jack Ricchiuto

Time & Place
Dates: Thursday, June 29 & Friday, June 30
Time: 8:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M.
Place: Baldwin Wallace College
Berea, Ohio
Strosacker Hall College Union

Open Source Economic Development is a new approach that teaches you how to develop the open economic networks that drive innovation. Register

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Closing triangles, naturally

In training with a few hundred health care staff this week focused on relationship building, we had them closing triangles, after a few minutes of context about why it's important and their brainstorm on the keys to effective introductions. People did a great job - a testament to our intrinsic capacity for doing just that!

Sunday, May 21, 2006

It's all about the relationships

The work we do with organizations and communities introduces many of them for the first time to the value of social capital. It is a whole new idea that the quality of connections between people are at least as valuable to the bottom and top lines as financial and other forms of capital. The most disturbing part of this reality is that social capital can't be engineered, managed, traded, or controlled.

It can only be nurtured, as in that which is done in gardening.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Trust in social networks

Maybe it was because of my lens, but I noticed that trust was one of the threads running through the talks and panel in yesterday's KM conference. One of the pieces I introduced in my 10 minutes of fame in the conference was the 4 core elements of trust building in networks and communities:

> Alignment - common beliefs & values
> Expansiveness - introductions to others in the network
> Interbeing - mutual promise making & keeping
> Productivity - making new impacts, innovations together

The role of network weaver is to see where opportunities exist to help people build stronger trust in their connections. Why? Because trust drives innovation.

Knowledge management

June, Valdis, and I participated in a day long Cleveland KM cluster conference yesterday on social and value networks and tools. It was a strong agenda with solid affirmation that the real gold in "knowledge management" is in the unleashing of networks.

It's an acknowledgement that knowledge in organizations and communities grows and serves in the context of relationships. It's value that doesn't reside in individual people, functions, or leaders. Like the brain, it only has value when connected.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Ghana sunshine

I’m still trying to figure out what I loved about Ghana. Unlike most trips, I came back from there energized and feeling nurtured, not drained.

The key is in the interactions. Everywhere I went, people bathed me in sunshine with their smiles and friendly acknowledgements. What was going on? It’s so elusive. All I know is that the quality of interaction was different. The smiles and hellos felt like a gift, but with no expectation that I owed anything back.

What is fascinating is that this gift opened something in me, and I found this same kind of easy acknowledging of others flowing out of me, and somehow I found myself feeling very relaxed and at ease in the world.

So much simple magic about relationships!

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Network Papers

I just posted some things I have written on networks and/or entrepreneurship on my web page:

The first one is an example of how I took census and other government data and converted it into a set of graphs that tell a story about why entrepreneurship is so important and why entrepreneurs have such a hard time surviving and growing.

The next one--Transforming Your Regional Economy Through Uncertainty and Surprise: Learning from Network Theory, Complexity Science and the Field--I did for a talk at the Prigogine Center in Texas. A different version was published in Uncertainty and Surprise in Complex Systems, 2005.

Building a Regional Entrepreneurship Network: A Guide to Action is a "How To" workbook for people interested in creating regional networks.

I'll post more soon...

Friday, May 12, 2006

Want to learn more?

Just wanted to let people know that they can learn more about Smart Networks and Network Weaving at a workshop in Cleveland on Friday May 19th that also includes Verna Allen of value networks fame. Valdis, Jack and I will be presenting together.

Also, the three of us will be leading a much more in-depth 2-day workshop on building economic networks at Baldwin Wallace.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Regional Innovation Economies

As I travel around the country--and now the world--I'm starting to see some very interesting and provocative economic shifts--part real, part still potential.

In both rural areas such as Appalachian Ohio and in urban centers such as Accra in Ghana, entrepreneurship is everywhere. it feels like an increasing number of what used to be LOCAL entrepreneurs (having only local markets) are networking to become REGIONAL entrepreneurs serving sets of urban markets around them--often crossing state or national boundaries. This is happening through regional innovation networks that are just starting to emerge. I think we all need to examine these closely and figure out ways to help them form all over the world.

What are regional innovation networks? From the fragmentary evidence we have so far, they seem to consist of
*entrepreneurial networks supported by creative NGOs or non-profits,
*regional catalysts and facilitators who work with those entrepreneurs to develop new regional distribution and marketing vehicles,
*consumers that value and pay for authentic regional services and products,
*a set of innovation and/or commercialization services that enable all types of businesses to move to high-value niches in the market,
*and a culture of innovation--that includes governmental policies that support and encourage regionalism.

Why are regional innovation networks so important? If an artisan in Appalachia or Ghana figures out ways to work with others to get their products to larger, but still close at hand, markets, they will start expanding and creating more jobs. And, by helping entrepreneurs focus on innovative niches, those jobs tend to be higher paying and higher quality.

Has anyone else been seeing signs that regional innovation economies are emerging? How can we weave the networks that are the foundation of such transformation?

Sunday, May 07, 2006

The quality of connections

The more I observe and reflect on the quality of connections in community networks, the more interested I become in the question of how to assess for this quality.

Of course, interaction frequency will remain a baseline indicating quality connections, but what beyond that?

I'm thinking there are at least these 4 indicators.

Alignment - how much do people have in common?
Productivity - how much new value does the relationship create?
Introductions - how many valuable introductions does the relationship produce?
Learning - how much new learning do people gain from each other and collaboratively?

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Network Weaving in West Africa

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I've been in Ghana working with a United Nations project that is bringing together West Africans to weave a regional network.

First, I have to say that Ghana is a wonderful and exciting place. The country is increasingly stable, and entreprenurship is alive along every street, where everything from handcarved beds to toilet paper are being hawked by local--usually very young--entrepreneurs. Reminds me of China when I was there in 1994 for the Womens Conference and saw the first signs of what was to become the China of today.

The people I met were wonderfully friendly and accepting--virtually everyone you pass will make eye contact and give you a greeting and a smile. I can't tell you how good it feels to be surrounded by this all day. If you have a chance, I urge you to visit. Many of the trees are a riot of bloom, and are filled with a chorus of birds trilling delightful melodies.

The challenge of weaving a regional network here is great--West African speak French, English or Portugeuse plus their tribal languages, so communication is difficult. But the potential of regional markets and a regional capacity to solve problems are huge motivators to collaboration.

More later.....

Monday, May 01, 2006

Cow pies, cow ties

I'm sitting with Valdis at Talkies who's been contacted for a project of marsupial mapping. I flinched until he explains a project a client of his once did mapping cows. The data was based on which cows spend the most time eating next to others, since eating promiximity correllates to strong social bovine ties.

It brings up the whole idea that behavioral mapping is the cleanest ... so to speak.

Characteristics of Natural Network Weavers

Network Weavers are individuals who take responsibility for creating healthy networks, what we call Smart Networks.

Anyone can learn to be a Network Weaver but natural Network Weavers have at least some of the following characteristics. Are you a natural Network Weaver?

1. Opportunity seeking: sees opportunities everywhere
2. Loves to connect people to each other
3. Able to unearth resources of all types and kinds
4. Able to remember many names and resources
5. Able to dialogue easily with people and get them to disclose information
6. Comfortable with uncertainty but persistent in making things happen
7. Able to learn from experience; decides next step after reflecting on previous step
8. Optimistic
9. Able to see when something doesn’t work and moves on
10. Has a big vision but sees the importance of taking small steps
11. Likes to get to know people with different perspectives and from different backgrounds
12. Listens well
13. Asks a lot of questions
14. Sees patterns—notices patterns in the network: where there is energy, where there is isolation, who interacts with whom, etc

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Connecting Places

Some places you go... you always meet someone you know. And even better, someone you should know, but don't yet!

These places are magnetic because people know they will meet "birds of feather" there -- people with overlapping interests, but with diverse networks. ACEnet's kitchen incubator is one such place. It mixes and matches people from SE Ohio who are involved, or want to be, in the local food industry.

Another connecting place is the Chicago Mosaic School. On a Sunday afternoon, local mosaic artists stop in to work on their projects, chat, gossip, see what's new, and help each other out. There they mix with artists from other cities who are in town taking classes at the school -- combining similar interests, different networks.

The Executive Director of the School, Karen Ami, is a natural network weaver. She connects mosaic artists and clients both nationally and internationally. People are attracted to Karen for her knowledge and expertise, and also for her ability to connect you to the right other person. Natural network weavers are like that... they attract people, lots of people, who wish to be connected.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Regional Networks

We are seeing more and more interest in "regional economies" all over the world. One of the key players in regional economics are the mayors of the cities in that region. How are the mayors in your region connected? Are they exchanging ideas? Are they assisting each other? Or are they chasing smokestacks and high tech labs, and only competing with each other?

Above is a network map of mayors from a small country in the European Union. The population of this country is around 5 million, about the size of typical economic region. The nodes, representing each mayor, are colored by political party.

Two things are immediately apparent:
1) This is a well connected network -- no isolates, no fragments, no bottlenecks. Measuring the network, we find a short average path length -- very little delay and distortion in communication flows.
2) There is no political polarization, as currently found in the U.S. -- various colors link to various other colors.

Because of the cross-polination of knowledge and ideas, along efficient communication paths, I am betting that these mayors give their region a strong advantage.

Network Mapping

The first step in Network Weaving is mapping the existing networks in your organization/community/region.

• What are our strengths?
• What are our weaknesses?
• Where are the disconnects?
• Who are the Connectors?
• Who are the Mavens?
• Who is in the clusters?
• How open/closed is our network?
• How have we progressed since last year?

Just like doctors use x-rays and CAT scans to see, and make sense of, what is happening in the complex human organism, we use network x-rays to map and measure what is happening in complex human communities like organizations, industries and regional economies.

Entrepreneurs 4 Sustainability

E4S, one of the premier entrepreneurial learning communities in Ohio [if not nationally!], held their annual network building meeting at the Great Lakes Brewing Company this week. A diverse group of attendees -- suits to sandals -- heard great bootstrap stories, did speed-networking led by Grant Marquit, and heard June and Valdis talk about network weaving in other places. During the meeting, Holly Harlan -- founder of E4S, publicly closed some triangles. She introduced several people to each other, pointing out why introduction will be fruitful -- she is working at the top levels of Jack's Introduction Pyramid. Wonderful modeling, Holly!

Two E4S members examine how the dots are connected [and could be connected] on the entrepreneurial network maps...

Network Weaving in West Africa

Next week I'll be flying to Ghana to work on a United Nations project. They will be bringing together non-profit and government leaders from 15 West African countries to learn how to weave network and work together.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

The Collaboration Pyramid

1 / Intracommunity assessment
People within communities work together to create a common understanding of the opportunity landscapes. We’re talking here about 5 types of communities:

a. people with needs/hopes
b. people with new ideas
c. people with talent/expertise
d. people with resources/funding
e. people with social/political/economic legitimizing power

At Level 1, people with needs and hopes work together with other people with needs and hopes; people with new ideas work together with other people with new ideas, and so on. All collaborations happen within each community.

2 / Intercommunity assessment
People across communities work together to create a common understanding of the opportunity landscapes. For example at Level 2, you find collaborations between people with needs/hopes working with people with new ideas. People with funding/resources working with people with talent/

3 / Intracommunity dreaming
People within communities collaborate in visioning, prioritizing, and planning relative to discovered collaboration opportunities.

4 / Intercommunity dreaming
People across communities collaborate in visioning, prioritizing, and planning relative to discovered collaboration opportunities.

5 / Select-invite R&D project
People within or across communities work together in invitation-specific projects

6 / Open R&D project
People within or across communities work together in open invitation projects

7 / Shared ownership/governance of new enterprise
Participants of R&D projects that create a new enterprise share ownership and/or governance. New enterprises include new civic programs, organizations, services.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Our 3 circles

This is a graphic we use to show our 3 circles of connections in our networks.

Our 1st circle are people we know well.
In our 2nd circle are people we know but not well - they are our 1st circle people's 1st circle
In our 3rd circle are people we don't know at all, but who are known by people in our 1st and 2nd circles.

The further out we go, the more we discover people with more differences than ourselves, which in our world, means a goldmine of new possibilities!

Saturday, January 28, 2006

The Planet: One introduction at a time

Networks build through introductions and not all introductions are equal. They are distinguished by the quality of the introduction.

If people are not naturally connection-prone, we need to spend more time facilitating connection. The more we are a presence in the introduction, the more people gain from the trust each has with us.

Introductions are an art yet conceptually simple: it's all about helping people discover the value in each other.

How do social and economic networks the size of a planet grow? As Valdis says: one introduction at a time.

Building Smart Networks

The Network Weaving experience of ACEnet is described in a white paper [PDF] by Valdis and June. The paper steps you through the network weaving process, from beginning to vibrant network. The paper was published in the Non-Profit Quarterly in 2005 and was chosen as one of the best articles of the year in NPQ.

In the latest version of the paper, we add a new idea from Jack -- the Introduction Pyramid [PDF]. This explains how one-on-one introductions are a key part of weaving the network and how they follow a scale of involvement and probablity of success.