posted 22 Jul 2008 in Volume 11 Issue 10
A Practical Guide to Creating and Sustaining Networks at Work and in the World
Author: Patti Anklam
Publisher: Elsevier, Burlington 2007
As a member of Patti Anklam’s 2003 Gennova Emergent Learning Network from which Net Work emerged, this is undoubtedly a positively biased review. Hearing the author explain ?energy? in networks in organisations at a 2003 Advanced Thinkers Summit both introduced me to Patti Anklam’s Net Work wisdom and prompted my pursuit of the ideas.
The author acknowledges her guides and mentors Rob Cross, Dave Snowden, Valdis Krebs and Verna Allee, whose approaches are all carefully explained to enable practitioners in ‘networkship’. The three parts of the book – starting with assumptions, examples and network facets (I), practical guidance about designing, developing and working with networks (II) and the imperatives of ‘net work’ (III) – integrate and make sense of applying social network analysis, complexity science and value networks to increase individual and organisational effectiveness.
Net Work manifests the author’s deep and disciplined practical experience. Real examples from Gennova that seeded the book, to the Boston healthcare community and the Young President’s Organisation, Fast Company Magazine’s ‘Company of Friends’, Women’s World Banking, Procter and Gamble’s ‘Connect and Develop’ and the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency Knowledge Lab demonstrate network dynamics and the variety of purposes networks can serve.
Delve into the index to find plain English explanations of the language of networks and analysis. Whether you are intrigued by ‘asymmetric triggers’, ‘closure’, ‘governance’, ‘mesh networks’ the ‘mentality of net work’, ‘relational capital’, ‘structural holes’, ‘texture’ or ‘vertical disintegration’, these terms and more are described.
The fundamentals of Organisational Network Analysis (ONA) and Value Network Analysis (VNA) as methods for examining the flows of tangible and intangible value across networks are outlined. A meticulous series of tables and diagrams guide readers through network examination questions, a sample network relationships survey, the resulting network map, how to read it, and questions to ask to make sense of ONA results.
Common metrics to describe network dynamics (density, distance and external/internal ratio to reveal how open or closed) are demystified. At the same time the author is frank about the challenges using ONA, given it is a new and evolving practice.
Value Network Analysis and Complexity-Based Sense Making are similarly addressed along with the important reminder that because you cannot examine a network without changing it, use of any of these tools does so. Practical techniques and methods, from going beyond examining networks to intentionally changing patterns and enhancing performance at individual, team, organisational and collective levels, are provided. The symbiotic evolution of technology and new social structures is addressed.
Net Work closes reminding us why networking is both important and a challenge. The power and language of networks is creeping into business. While the skills can be learned, net work takes time. For those operating in competitive and controlling hierarchical organisations, the openness and authenticity effective net work demands are a stretch. The ?Six Useful First Steps? closing the book embody the roll-up-the-sleeves practical guide that is Patti Anklam’s Net Work.
Books like Yochai Benkler’s Wealth of Networks or Rob Cross and Andrew Parker’s The Hidden Power of Social Networks make the case for putting human networks to work. Patti Anklam’s Net Work provides a route map for translating network potential into demonstrable business value in organisations.