My Network Works

You know, I was thinking of Snowden’s notion of different types of systems (shocker, I know). In particular, I was wondering if my network of colleague practitioners was Ordered (either simple or complicated), Chaotic, or Complex. Snowden says we can look at them like this:

Ordered: system constrains agents, reductionism and rules, deterministic observer independence; 

Chaotic: agents unconstrained, and independent from each other; and/or

Complex: System lightly constrains its agents, agents modify the system by their interaction with it and each other. They irreversibly co-evolve.

What came to mind? Right: complex. In my network of colleagues that I draw upon or otherwise rely upon for one form of support or another, there are no real constraints or too many rules, and I, as an observer am clearly not independent from my network. Chaos – well maybe – (lol). But closer to the truth of the matter, we have a few unstated norms, I think, that help keep the network alive and dynamic, co-evolving with other forces and one another.

Sound ethereal? Consider the following unstated principles of how we have light constraints on our network and how we co-evolve with our interactions:

  1. Speak highly of one another and trust the inherent capacity each of us brings. It’s why we are in the same game and in the same room. If I didn’t trust you, you wouldn’t be here so let’s move on with it;
  2. Don’t steal clients – it’s an NLM (Network Limiting Move);
  3. Make the principal agent as successful as he or she can be – they may do the same for you one day;
  4. Do the best you can as if my client was your client – they may well be if the scope changes and I would be happy to refer – I do it regularly;
  5. Work for whatever your colleagues can afford to pay; trust is inherent in the relationship, we all need to run our practices, and no one will be taken advantage of;
  6. Reciprocate if you can – it keeps the faith;
  7. Be honest with your capacity and share credit where it is due. Nothing puts me off more than someone saying, “I built that” or “I did that” when I know damned well it’s not the case. Don’t be greedy with that BS or you’ll be gone – we rarely do anything without the help and support of others; and
  8. Be open-minded to the style and approach of each network agent or principal. Follow their lead and speak truth to power; the diversity makes us stronger.

I have noticed that the 6th principle above is often the one I am most frustrated with. I have hired close to 100 colleagues to pinch hit or contribute in the past 14 years and I am sure that is likely conservative. I can count on one hand the number of times where this has been reciprocated. I take it as a sign of the type of projects I have been involved with that are more systemic in nature and less likely to be content-exclusive. But still, I rely on my network to make me more effective, more robust and more successful. So thanks, folks. I hope I have the opportunity to contribute to your success in the near future in the same way you have contributed to mine.

So that’s about it for now. Colleagues, if you have something to add, please comment.


System of System Lenses – Five lenses to help bring clarity to systems conversations.

Any discussion of complex issues requires moving beyond the assumption that we are all talking about the same issue at hand and into pristine clarity about what the system up for conversation really is. In my years consulting with organizations and in teaching in the Master of Arts in Leadership at Royal Roads University, I have observed that system conversations can generally sort into five categories:

  • Ideology and Beliefs Lens – The sum total of the beliefs, assumptions, mental models, values and shared meaning underpinning a situation;
  • Rational and Irrational Decision Making Lens – The rational and irrational ways we obtain, information, apply reasoning and make decisions;
  • Interpersonal and Social Dynamics Lens – The patterns, habits, personal and interpersonal relationships among individuals and groups all make up this lens;
  • Process and Value Creation Lens– Any time we are seeing someone or something moving through a process in such a way as to be affected by the process, we are looking through this lens; and
  • ContexLens Elements of a scenario that are external to it, but that give rise to it or otherwise apply pressure on it such that is experienced in a certain way (yes this is paradoxical but it helps form a boundary).
So give it a try. When you are discussing a complex scenario, get clear about which lens you are looking through. See what new possibilities open up for you and for others. Post to let us know what you see and what your experiences are.