Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Look what's selling

In today's NY Times, NYU's graduate program's new ad headline/tagline: "I'm earning my Master's, and joining a powerful professional network"

Imagine that! Know-who has finally caught up with know-what and know-how as a differentiating competency in the halls of ivy.


Jon said...

The know-how part of that equation is an interesting issue, Valdis. As I am certain you will know, one of the main methods of structuring organizational hierarchies is that found in all the main job evaluation schemes (which are used to populate the org chart and derive compensation practices (levels, bands, grades, etc.)

The main, most heavily weighted factor in all the JE point-factor systems is "technical" knowledge in a field or domain, with some generalization permitted as one moves higher in an organization, due to industry / business / governmental experience. Anfd this the reporting relationships and the differentiation / dividing lines between functions and depratments is also derived from those core assumptions about the vertical arrangement and "use" of that knowledge.

In a networked world, knowledge is being exchanged and used more and more horizontally, with centers (nodes) of know-how and expertise being connected through know-who and who-knows-what, with roles, accountability and deiverables being negotiated based on purpose and what needs or is desired to happen.

Maybe we should turn the org charts sideways, with points of instantiation at the end of either side. Tom Peters tried turning the org charts upside-down a decade or so ago, but it does not seem to have yet reached a full-blown effect ;-)

Anyway ... today's organizations still by and large use the main JE methods (Hay, Aiken Plan, Towers perrin, watson wyatt, etc.) and increasingly the core assumptions of thiose are being encoded in computerized applications, to take away the onerous task of evalluating jobs in committee or paying ridiculous sums to consultants for carrying out very simplistic work.

I believe that continuing to use these methods invented in the late 40's and early 50's is contributing to significant dissonance, as networks of information, knowledge and expertise are continung to gather force. Those methods create the skeletons of organizations, and it is such boring stuff that no one (or very few) talk about how basic work design needs to change .. big time.

Valdis said...

[Jack was the original poster]

Good points Jon! Embedding those out-dated methods in computer code just makes change to current emergent knowledge environement all the much harder.

Research has shown that both human capital [what we have in our heads: know what & know how] and social capital [our networks: know whom & know who knows what/how] are key ingredients in high performance. Some research has even shown that social capital is the differentiator of the top performers.

Maybe all MBA schools provide roughly equal human capital? Maybe the better schools provide better social capital? Maybe the difference between an MBA from Cleveland State and Harvard is not "more/better knowledged" but a "vastly better network"?

Neil said...

So how much do you think know-who matters in upper level education? Is there a significant gap between a small liberal arts college and Harvard? How surmountable is it? Is it permanent, or does it become irrelevant over time?

Valdis said...

Excellent question Neil -- somebody should earn a PhD doing that research.

My guess is that over time the advantage may narrow, but then maybe it is too late to make any big career moves. The Harvard social capital advantage is early on, where the righ move makes a big difference. Once you are seen as a "star"...

Neil said...

Do you think there's a way to duplicate it without going to an Ivy?