5 Things you Need to Know about Networks within Firms

Our friends at The Intraprenuer Lab recently invited us to spend some time with their most recent cohort of changemakers in the hope that we would could strike up a rousing conversation on the ‘Spirit of Cooperative Endeavour’.

I’ll be honest, at first I wasn’t entirely sure what that meant, but as our friends described the opportunity a little more, it became clear that they were struck by some of our work, thinking, and practice around both the navigation and utilization of networks within organizations in the service of big hairy problems.


Networks brought Eric and I together, and the exposition and interrogation of them are really one of the foundational offerings of interstitio, so we thought what better opportunity, in preparation of our speaking engagement, to distill our *ahem* wisdom into a pithy bulleted blog post? So, without further ado - 5 Things you Need to Know about Networks within Firms:

  • A network is a set of things, and the connections between those things.

In the context of an organization the things are people (colleagues) and the connections are both formal (reporting, seating, project-based etc.) and informal (project-based, interest-based, seating etc.) The most common form of connection between people that delineates a network is some pattern of communication (IM, Email, SMS, Phone, conversation etc.)

  • The network is not manifest, but is manipulable.

You can’t touch the network directly; it’s not manifest physically for the most part. But it is articulable given that the pattern of communication can be made numerable through the use of Graph Theory and other mathematical and statistical tools (one of our specialities).

  • The network is not static.

Because of the dynamic nature of communication between people within firms, any given representation of an underlying network is already outdated. Although, there most likely is an underlying structure that emerges when you look at the same firm for a long-enough period of time.

  • The people comprising the network are all unique.

See the ‘No Doppelganger Theorem’ if you don’t believe me. These unique people are oriented with respect to one another based on both formal and informal contextual considerations. What are their roles and responsibilities?; What work are they engaged in?; Who do they ‘serve’? Etc. and they each have their own driving goals and motivations, both intrinsic and extrinsic in nature.

  • The network is smaller than you think.

For a variety of reasons, some too arcane to indulge here, you’re not nearly as far as you think you are from anyone within your own firm; meaning there is typically a short ‘authentic’ path from you, via connections, and connections-of-connections, to any given person within your organization.

So, there you have it - 5 Things you Need to Know about Networks within Firms … In addition to the post we made a handy-dandy single-slide PDF summary which you can find here: