Innovation 2012: Networking’s key

Networking often gets rapped as a shallow, exploitative use of other people. Yet as Steven Johnson points out in Where Good Ideas Come From, networks are critical to innovation in both the natural and man-made world. Research shows that “the most creative individuals had broad social networks that extended outside their organisation and involved people from diverse fields of expertise”. As leaders come under increasing pressure to galvanise their people to “innovate”, perhaps they should spend more time understanding how networks operate within and beyond their organisation, say the authors of new research highlighted in the MITSloan Management Review winter issue. The researchers set out to explore how companies could leverage employee networks to increase individual and organisational performance. “Senior executives would do well to give as much thought to the design, development and facilitation of networks as they historically have given to organisational structure and reporting relationships,” the researchers say. “But this is not easy to do. Job design and performance management, for example, are often based on individual accountability despite the fact that most work today is collaborative.” A key finding: look at employees from both individual performance and network effectiveness perspectives to identify valuable pockets of hidden talent. “In relying on traditional methods,” they add, “companies frequently end up not only overlooking talent but also not seeing that some of their high-performers aren’t making collaborative contributions to the organisation.” In this digital age, leaders are facilitators who enable the connections that drive effective mass collaboration, says Rod Collins, author of Leadership in a Wiki World. “As the rapid developments in digital technologies continue to demonstrate that networks are far smarter and faster than hierarchies, the biggest challenge for traditional organisations will be whether or not they can reinvent both leadership and management and transform themselves from top-down hierarchies to peer-to-peer networks.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *