In the earlier post I had introduced the next challenges that an organization would face. The challenges were
In this post I will discuss the second challenge.
The word connected brings to mind for most people, an image of a handshake, number of LinkedIn connects, or friends in a Facebook.
The word ‘connected’ brings to my mind a spider web. The spider is extremely aware of its web and all that happens on it. The spider waits in the centre of the web. Any perturbation around the spider leads to vibration set up in the web. This is detected by the spider and it knows by the very nature of the perturbation as to whether it was caused by a prey or something else. It also knows where in the web the prey has been trapped and it rushes there to address the prey.
So connected for me is being in tune with your environment. The degree to which one in is in tune with the environment is connectedness. Typically we measure connectedness in terms of friends we have, how many guests we need to call on our birthdays or our wedding day.
The future is almost always uncertain. Viewers of the movie franchise Final Destination would have marveled at the Rube Goldberg-esque trap set up the future (fate/death/nature).
Organization grapple with uncertainty as it is not possible to know the next. We have seen how it is important to predict the next step when dealing with chaotic behavior one experiences in the market and with the customers.
This is possible with managing connectedness.
We now live in a connected world. We are connected by many links. Links formed by movement of people, goods, services, finance, data & communication. See the figure depicting the changing production footprint of automotive companies over years.
It is therefore important to bridge the uncertainty. Being connected, it is possible to fill the knowledge gap with facts & inferences gleaned from the network. Organizations have begun doing it. Understanding customers to offer better goods and services and in the process increase the resultant revenue is the focus for many retail organizations. Airlines have started focusing on the ancillary products, because it gives them a better connect with the passengers and increase in their revenues. Being connected matters.
The question is not to ask ‘how to be connected’ but to introduce what I call as the ‘Network Thinking’. It is important to view all those connections around you as a network. Having done that it becomes necessary to identify the actors in the network. Mark Turrel in his TED talk has mentioned six types of nodes in a network. It is important for an organization to understand how these actors (nodes) can be leveraged. Turrel lists them as amplifiers, repeaters, deadeners, signallers and the young depending on how they behave in a network.
- Amplifiers – they relay messages they receive with value add
- Repeaters – they repeat messages there by more people can receive the message – or classic forwarders
- Deadeners – they delete messages and possible delete from other minds as well – people who go against the repeaters and point out unnecessary hoaxes for example
- Signallers – these are like mavens – experts in their domain and know what can be expected in the future
- Young – New additions to the network depict different behavior – age in the network and age of the node determines certain behaviours
Identifying, knowing and communicating with these network entities, be it friends, customers, agents, dealers, or passengers is important. It is also imperative to have a two-way active communication, though often than not organization are engaged in a one way offers communication or sales brochure.
As the network becomes large – especially for large organization it becomes very difficult to understand the sub networks within the community. One reason is due to the ‘multi-minded’ nature of the network. Where one person or a small group for persons may have a goal, organizations have a purpose, a purpose that translates to a changing goal or a set of goals every now and then.
Organizations have to rely on surrogates if something is not available first hand. I had once wanted to understand how one would go about estimating how many ceiling fans are sold in a given period. There were simply too many ceiling fans manufacturers to ask each one of them and enumerate! A suggestion from a professor of mine was to ask the ball bearing manufacturers. Reason: most ceiling fans used a very select set of ball bearings and – ball bearing manufacturers were much less in number!
In a network there are all sorts of surrogates available and each node in a network telegraphs different messages based on its behaviour. There are often points of singularity that needs to be understood. If there is sluggishness in the traffic on the road – and traffic is a very chaotic system – where normally it is smooth, it is fair to expect a vehicular breakdown ahead. More often it would be a lorry taking a turn in the wrong direction in my experience.
When dealing with large numbers in a network and it is necessary to predict that one step ahead, technology is often resorted to and organizations take help of predictive analytics using big data techniques to both understand behaviour and also predict behaviour. Often it is necessary to be just that one step ahead of the competition!
Crowdsourcing is catching on. This takes many forms. From straightforward activities of getting new ideas to doing sentiment analysis using Twitter feed and Facebook posts. The belief is strong that there is a great pot of gold at the end of the predictive analytics rainbow. Whatever be the objectives of the organizational initiatives, one of the critical success factors will definitely be the degree of the Network Thinking by the employees in the organization.
Like the spider looking for opportunities to eat and grow by keeping tabs on the network, organizations too have to keep an eye on the network and an ear to the network medium of communication around them.
In the next post we will see how the network could actually be related and how the cascading effect among customers affects organizations. I leave with a quote from psychologist Harriet Lerner
Only through our connectedness to others can we really know and enhance the self. And only through working on the self can we begin to enhance our connectedness to others.