how about networks?

May 27, 2010 — 3 Comments

Christakis

As a follow up to my last (and rather old) post I wanted to say something about networks as organizations and their aesthetics. I am most of the way through reading Connected, a brilliant book on the science of social networks by Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler. Among the many insights is that we will be able to intentionally manage social networks as we understand more deeply how they operate. Given the power of networks to achieve many things I think it likely that many more organizations will seek to design themselves as networks.

There is much to admire about the aesthetics of networks including their emergent behavior, their resilience and their ability to evolve to be more fit over time. These are things that classically designed organizations have struggled with. Does this make networks beautiful? I certainly find the social network maps of the Framingham heart study, that the authors use to illustrate contagious behavior, quite beautiful.

Tim Brown

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3 responses to how about networks?

  1. These social networks are beautiful Tim. Nicholas Christakis did a TED talk that has some very beautiful examples of social networks [time lapsed examples are incredible] and some conclusions that are very surprising. Check out http://bit.ly/abJrAJ.

    Also a new book by Jon Katzenbach and Zia Khan – “Leading outside the lines” – is a good reminder of the power and beauty of the often forgotten informal networks in organizations [relates directly to your last post]. If we would think about organizational design like music composition or painting imagine the institutional power we could unleash?

  2. I being thinking at the same this past days, I believe simplicity is behind all. Why the simplest answer is normally the most beautiful? Because it response to the complexity surrounding it. It doesn’t have excess, is not superfluous, its meaningful and powerful to the context and the stakeholders that interact with it, no matter how complex the system may be.

  3. Hi Tim,
    I really like the book “Six Degrees: The science of the connected age” by Duncan Watts. There is also a wonderful Radiolab episode about Emergence that I think really captures the magic of networks: http://www.wnyc.org/shows/radiolab/episodes/2005/02/18 – I found it inspiring- thanks for the post!

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