Network for ideas and action

It’s only in the recent past that networks were dismissed, justly or not, as a crass tool for getting ahead. These days corporate attention is focused on their critical role in driving innovation. In this environment, a network’s a network’s a network, right?  Not so, argues Andrew Hargadon, an innovation researcher at the University of California (Davis). “Networks are valuable when it comes to having an idea because, in fact, broad-ranging networks give you access to lots of ideas to choose from – call these idea networks,” Hargadon says. “No one idea will likely be any good but, with enough ideas, one will.  The act of making it real will change it beyond recognition — and that’s where very different, action networks, are required.” Hargadon argues that idea networks are “low-commitment”, which is why they can range widely (and wildly) and tap people’s broad knowledge and generosity. When it’s time for action, a separate network and skillset are required. “Discussions have to happen: about ideas, about goals, about timing, about roles, and about what has to happen next,” he says. “Leases are signed, credit cards are maxed out, jobs are quit, and doors are closed.” Action networks entail commitment – and good process. Scott Belsky, the founder of the Behance network and author of Making Ideas Happen, says process gets a bad rap compared with creativity. “The reality is that creative environments – and the creative psyche itself – are not conducive to organisation,” Belsky says. “We become intolerant of procedures, restrictions, and process. (Yet) organisation is the guiding force of productivity: if you wish to make an idea happen, you need to have a process for doing so.”

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