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.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The art of NetAwareness

I am continuously innovating in the development of questions that can evoke netawareness (awareness of your own networks) without necessarily drawing visual maps. These questions are useful as steps before or after mapping, addressing the 3 kinds of value in networks - asset, positional, and generative value.

How many networks are you a part of these days?
In which are you more at the core and which more on the periphery?
Are these positions by choice?
What do you consider the more valuable tangible and intangible assets of these networks?
How many steps do you know or think you are from these assets?
What do you think are the more valuable assets you bring to your networks?
How many people know about these assets?
How many people do you think would describe you as a valued collaborator?
What if anything could position you more as a valued collaborator?
Who in your networks might benefit from your introducing them to each other?
Who would you benefit from being introduced to & who could make these introductions?

Thursday, October 18, 2007

More on Positional Value

I think Jack is bringing up a really key point when he discusses positional value! A Network Weaver needs to be aware of where he or she is in their network(s). I often have individuals or groups of people from an organization or project take a large piece of paper and start drawing their network. In addition to including all the people they work with, they need to identify the connections between those individuals. They also need to include all of their friends' friends--people their friends have talked about but who the mapper does not really know.

All of this mapping helps people think about their position in the network. When someone comes to them with a dream, are they able to connect that individual to people who have the resources and ideas that will enable that person to turn the dream into reality?

Of course, a much more accurate and complete picture can be obtained by surveying the network and mapping the results, then looking at your individual scores for a range of metrics. But either way, you can start to improve your network position so that you can be a better Network Weaver.

For example, I've been trying to help a wonderful energetic candidate for mayor in our small town access information about what other small towns are doing to support Smart Growth--helping local businesses flourish and encouraging effective approaches to energy conservation. In my head, I started drawing a network map of my network that might provide some help in this arena. I realized that if I was going to be a true Network Weaver for him, I had to spruce up my Smart Growth network! I started calling up some people I had worked with years ago in economic development and quizzed them about their network. As I add these new folks to my network, I'm able to introduce the candidate to some truly effective Smart Growth wizards all around the country.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Network Weaver Checklist

Early on in this blog, I offered a list of characteristcs of network weavers. This list has now been expanded into the Network Weaver Checklist, located on my webpage.

The characteristics described in the checklist go far beyond the art of connecting people to each other, important as that is. For example, one good friend of mine always sees opportunities where others would see problems. If we get caught in a traffic jam, he notes that it gives us more time to talk or to notice the beauty around us! This quality, which we call Opportunity Seeking, is critical to network weaver success. By helping us shift our attention from what's wrong to a sense of possibilities, the network weaver is putting us on the path to effective self-organizing. We start thinking about what we can do and who we can work with to make things happen.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

3 Kinds of Value in Networks

In my work with social network development, we're talking about 3 kinds of value people bring to their networks, that shape the quality of their connections.

Asset value is talent and resources. Positional value is awareness of the network and access to assets. Generative value is the ability and willingness to engage strengths in trust building and collaboration. Strong networks not only have people who bring each of these kinds of value, they have people who bring 2 or 3 kinds of value.

What we refer to as "network weavers" are often people with positional and generative value, and sometimes asset value although asset value is not a requirement for network weavers.

Generative value is the most important of all 3 because it drives the kind of inclusion and connectivity that increases a network's net (pardon the pun) asset and positional value. When the quality of connections deepens, the strength of the network expands.

The good news is that we now know exactly how to help people and networks develop their capacities for generative value.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Reframing Obesity Through Network Weaving

In his July 25th post, Valdis mentioned the social network mapping of obesity networks in The New England Journal of Medicine paper by Nicholas A. Christakis and James H. Fowler.

One of the most intriguing observations in the paper is that it was not seeing obeisty-related behavior shifts in their friendship networks that correlated with the spread of obesity, but shifts in norms! An infuential person in the friendship network started reframing the groups' attitude about obesity and related topics (eating habits, etc) and this created a dynamic of such power that it's impact shot out 3 steps (to friends of friends of friends).

This has incredible implications for obesity reduction efforts. Working with a network of local organizations, researchers, and foundations, can we identify some key individuals in a set of friendship networks that are ready to change, and help them form a group that would consciously help their networks reframe obesity? These key individuals would be network weavers, helping to build healthier networks.

I think the work of the Frameworks Institute could be very helpful. This group identifies current frameworks and then helps groups create new frameworks that enable individuals to move from those existing frameworks to new, more healthy ones.

Baboon sustainability

"So important are these social skills that it is females with the best social networks, not those most senior in the hierarchy, who leave the most offspring."

From today's Science section in the NY Times

Monday, October 08, 2007

What do you see?

This is a symbolic progression of generative relationships in part of a network. I like to use it to sharpen people's sense making about networks as they grow.

The etiquette of introductions

There is an etiquette to connecting with people we don't know (people in our 2nd and 3rd circles). In conversation with June and Valdis, I find out they know all kinds of people who are potentially interesting or important to me. I don't know how I fit into the world of these relationships they have built trust equity with.

It becomes a matter of courtesy, and core to our trust together, to let them know my intentions to connect with people in their close circles who they have revealed to me. They reveal their cherished connections because they trust that I will act in ways that honor their relationships and ours.

The best scenario is that they make the introductions they feel comfortable making. Of course, this can't apply when I have an accidental conversation with one of their close circle people, only realizing later that we have June's or Valdis' mutual trust in common.

In so-called "social network websites" where I can view someone's "736 closest friends" and start instantly connecting with/spamming them, I am violating introduction etiquette and risking the integrity and continuity of trust in all of the relationships involved.

Every introduction is an act of trust and trustworthiness. If I introduce you to one of my trusted friends or colleagues, it is in trust, that I am making a trustworthy introduction relative to the trust equity in our relationship.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Women leaders

Breakfast conversation today with two amazing women who are innovating in building and connecting intentional communities in Africa and here in the states. I’m helping them use social network science to do this work. We were talking about their experience of being outcasts as leaders in traditional religious communities when male hierarchies dominate.

It raises the question of when are we going to start realizing the legitimacy of women as leaders? When will be start to understand that authentic leadership is the fusion of divine feminine and divine masculine energies? When we become conscious about leadership, we will no longer make gender generalizations about leadership. On that day, women will be embraced for their creativity and men for their sensitivity. On that day, we will finally understand that leadership is a relationship, not a role.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Network Maps In Practice

You may have seen the recent stories in the New York Times that described the wonderful successes of the Pittsburgh Veterans Administration in decreasing the prevalence of the penicillin resistant staph infection (MRSA) that has been responsible for the deaths of perhaps 100,000 patients nationwide. What the story didn’t describe is that much of the lower rates were due to a strategy called Positive Deviance that encourages staff to work across roles to generate dozens of small actions that together bring about reduced rates. Housekeeping staff, in particular, began working with nursing staff on new cleaning strategies, innovative ways to deal with potentially contaminated gowns, etc

Working for Plexus Institute, I recently completed a project mapping and analyzing 4 units in the VAPHS and comparing the network metrics for each unit with the MRSA transmission rates. Read the full report here. We collected surveys from MRSA and nursing staff, who answered a set of questions: “Who did you work with on MRSA prevention strategies prior to the beginning of this Positive Deviance MRSA initiative? Who are you working with now? Who would you like to work with on MRSA prevention projects in the coming year?”

The results were fascinating! The unit with the lowest transmission rate had a network pattern distinctly different from the unit with a high transmission rates. The least successful unit (see the red nodes in the map above) was centralized and isolated. Individuals in the most successful unit (see the greeen nodes in the map), in contrast, were more evenly connected to each other and well-connected to a wide range of outside resources. Nursing was collaborating with the housekeeping staff, ward clerks and even patients in their efforts. Just imagine how the quality of health care could improve if we were able to spark this same innovative and collaborative environment in all hospital settings!

We are hoping to implement network mapping in several other hospitals, mapping at the start of the MRSA prevention project and using the results to move the hospital much more quickly to the kind of Smart Network that encourages effective innovation.