Closing triangles, naturally

In training with a few hundred health care staff this week focused on relationship building, we had them closing triangles, after a few minutes of context about why it's important and their brainstorm on the keys to effective introductions. People did a great job - a testament to our intrinsic capacity for doing just that!

It's all about the relationships

The work we do with organizations and communities introduces many of them for the first time to the value of social capital. It is a whole new idea that the quality of connections between people are at least as valuable to the bottom and top lines as financial and other forms of capital. The most disturbing part of this reality is that social capital can't be engineered, managed, traded, or controlled.

It can only be nurtured, as in that which is done in gardening.

Trust in social networks

Maybe it was because of my lens, but I noticed that trust was one of the threads running through the talks and panel in yesterday's KM conference. One of the pieces I introduced in my 10 minutes of fame in the conference was the 4 core elements of trust building in networks and communities:

> Alignment - common beliefs & values
> Expansiveness - introductions to others in the network
> Interbeing - mutual promise making & keeping
> Productivity - making new impacts, innovations together

The role of network weaver is to see where opportunities exist to help people build stronger trust in their connections. Why? Because trust drives innovation.

Knowledge management

June, Valdis, and I participated in a day long Cleveland KM cluster conference yesterday on social and value networks and tools. It was a strong agenda with solid affirmation that the real gold in "knowledge management" is in the unleashing of networks.

It's an acknowledgement that knowledge in organizations and communities grows and serves in the context of relationships. It's value that doesn't reside in individual people, functions, or leaders. Like the brain, it only has value when connected.

Ghana sunshine

I�m still trying to figure out what I loved about Ghana. Unlike most trips, I came back from there energized and feeling nurtured, not drained.

The key is in the interactions. Everywhere I went, people bathed me in sunshine with their smiles and friendly acknowledgements. What was going on? It�s so elusive. All I know is that the quality of interaction was different. The smiles and hellos felt like a gift, but with no expectation that I owed anything back.

What is fascinating is that this gift opened something in me, and I found this same kind of easy acknowledging of others flowing out of me, and somehow I found myself feeling very relaxed and at ease in the world.

So much simple magic about relationships!

Network Papers

I just posted some things I have written on networks and/or entrepreneurship on my web page:

The first one is an example of how I took census and other government data and converted it into a set of graphs that tell a story about why entrepreneurship is so important and why entrepreneurs have such a hard time surviving and growing.

The next one--Transforming Your Regional Economy Through Uncertainty and Surprise: Learning from Network Theory, Complexity Science and the Field--I did for a talk at the Prigogine Center in Texas. A different version was published in Uncertainty and Surprise in Complex Systems, 2005.

Building a Regional Entrepreneurship Network: A Guide to Action is a "How To" workbook for people interested in creating regional networks.

I'll post more soon...

Manifest Kick Off Breakfast at Columbia College, 05.12.06

Manifest, Hokin Gallery at Columbia College, 05.12.06

Want to learn more?

Just wanted to let people know that they can learn more about Smart Networks and Network Weaving at a workshop in Cleveland on Friday May 19th that also includes Verna Allen of value networks fame. Valdis, Jack and I will be presenting together.

Also, the three of us will be leading a much more in-depth 2-day workshop on building economic networks at Baldwin Wallace.

Regional Innovation Economies

As I travel around the country--and now the world--I'm starting to see some very interesting and provocative economic shifts--part real, part still potential.

In both rural areas such as Appalachian Ohio and in urban centers such as Accra in Ghana, entrepreneurship is everywhere. it feels like an increasing number of what used to be LOCAL entrepreneurs (having only local markets) are networking to become REGIONAL entrepreneurs serving sets of urban markets around them--often crossing state or national boundaries. This is happening through regional innovation networks that are just starting to emerge. I think we all need to examine these closely and figure out ways to help them form all over the world.

What are regional innovation networks? From the fragmentary evidence we have so far, they seem to consist of
*entrepreneurial networks supported by creative NGOs or non-profits,
*regional catalysts and facilitators who work with those entrepreneurs to develop new regional distribution and marketing vehicles,
*consumers that value and pay for authentic regional services and products,
*a set of innovation and/or commercialization services that enable all types of businesses to move to high-value niches in the market,
*and a culture of innovation--that includes governmental policies that support and encourage regionalism.

Why are regional innovation networks so important? If an artisan in Appalachia or Ghana figures out ways to work with others to get their products to larger, but still close at hand, markets, they will start expanding and creating more jobs. And, by helping entrepreneurs focus on innovative niches, those jobs tend to be higher paying and higher quality.

Has anyone else been seeing signs that regional innovation economies are emerging? How can we weave the networks that are the foundation of such transformation?

The quality of connections

The more I observe and reflect on the quality of connections in community networks, the more interested I become in the question of how to assess for this quality.

Of course, interaction frequency will remain a baseline indicating quality connections, but what beyond that?

I'm thinking there are at least these 4 indicators.

Alignment - how much do people have in common?
Productivity - how much new value does the relationship create?
Introductions - how many valuable introductions does the relationship produce?
Learning - how much new learning do people gain from each other and collaboratively?

Network Weaving in West Africa

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I've been in Ghana working with a United Nations project that is bringing together West Africans to weave a regional network.

First, I have to say that Ghana is a wonderful and exciting place. The country is increasingly stable, and entreprenurship is alive along every street, where everything from handcarved beds to toilet paper are being hawked by local--usually very young--entrepreneurs. Reminds me of China when I was there in 1994 for the Womens Conference and saw the first signs of what was to become the China of today.

The people I met were wonderfully friendly and accepting--virtually everyone you pass will make eye contact and give you a greeting and a smile. I can't tell you how good it feels to be surrounded by this all day. If you have a chance, I urge you to visit. Many of the trees are a riot of bloom, and are filled with a chorus of birds trilling delightful melodies.

The challenge of weaving a regional network here is great--West African speak French, English or Portugeuse plus their tribal languages, so communication is difficult. But the potential of regional markets and a regional capacity to solve problems are huge motivators to collaboration.

More later.....

Cow pies, cow ties

I'm sitting with Valdis at Talkies who's been contacted for a project of marsupial mapping. I flinched until he explains a project a client of his once did mapping cows. The data was based on which cows spend the most time eating next to others, since eating promiximity correllates to strong social bovine ties.

It brings up the whole idea that behavioral mapping is the cleanest ... so to speak.

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