The more we understand about networks, the more amazed we become at their immense and inscrutable power and elegance, starting with the fact that networks do not have "centers" or "boundaries" and act more like complex adaptive systems than orderly hierarchies.
Getting things done in networks barely resembles the rules of getting things done when the whole is divided into power, knowledge, and responsibility haves and have-nots. Best and worst of all, networks do not "play by the rules" because they are intrinsically too fluid and self-organizing for that. And because of that, they tend to be far more incubatorial than traditionally designed organizations and social structures when it comes to innovation and resiliency.
So are they simply random fields of chaos? Hardly. The more we intentionally grow networks, the more we discover very clear laws at work. Let's look at 4 laws of social networks, realizing that there may be galaxies more beyond these.
1. Luck = consciousness x transparency
The premise of my second book in 2002, "Accidental Conversations" is that "the best things in life happen unplanned." It continues to be amazing that when people hear that, they respond far less with outrage or defiance, but with juicy story after story about how the best things - and people - in their lives emerged in unplanned and unpredictable ways. The grace of serendipity is one of the most powerful and accessible currencies in networks and, as luck would have it, it happens at the intersection of (network) consciousness and being transparent about one's gifts and passions. A few books later, in "Conscious Becoming" I suggest that to be "conscious" is to be "curious." The most curious and transparent people are also the luckiest in networks.
2. Innovation = learning x diverse connections
I disagree with the argument that innovation is the child of desperation. I wish it was so, because if it was, we would be on a planet devoid of incredible amounts of preventable child deaths, failed economies, and the rest of what would otherwise be tragedies that could be prevented by innovations of all kinds. The pragmatic reality is that innovation happens at the intersection of learning and cultivating diverse connections. When you have diverse connections in a network, learning almost cannot not happen. Networks literally become learning disabled if the connections become too homophilous and without learning, no innovation is possible.
3. Influence = credibility x location
If your passion is to create a future different from the past, you value influence and influence happens at the intersection of credibility and location in the network. Get to know the people in a network who know lots of other people and cultivate credibility with them, and you have natural and authentic influence. Your voice can soften and you can put your spam weapons down because you will organically influence open spaces within your network simply because it is a function of location and credibility.
4. Network growth = introductions x generosity
Some networks grow into thrivability with far fewer resources than resource-rich networks. It is because people in these thriving networks make more introductions of people who don't know each other and practice more acts of generosity. Good introductions are an art form anyone can quickly learn and master. Generosity is offering your gifts to others who value them, without the strings of reciprocity attached. Generosity and introductions accelerate the growth the networks in amazingly unpredictable and wonderful ways.
These 4 laws continue to inform and inspire the work June, Valdis and I do with communities and networks and people continue to be amazed at their truth, beauty, and power. Networks grow at the speed of introductions and acts of generosity among and between members of a network.
Jack Ricchiuto | DesigningLife.com