Tuesday, August 15, 2006

After a Birthday Break: More on Networks and Innovation

After a week off for birthday festivities and am back to continue the conversation from the last post on networks and innovation.

Networking: Why A Geeky Noun Is an Essential Verb for Innovation

The idea that networks make new ideas possible through collaboration seems obvious to those who already serve as guardians of such networks. To those who use them in more narrow ways -- for specific sales goals, for example -- it's time to wake up to what you might be missing. Think long-term. Think R&D. The more people you can connect to each other to solve problems, the more likely one of these solutions will be one for which you've been looking on your own without success.

What to Look For and Why

June Holley organizes this strategy beautifully with software that can provide metrics for all those who feel that a traditional sort of measurement is the criteria for real progress. Her presentations on smart networks are online -- I won't reproduce them here.

However, the main points to stress from the overlap in her and my own work on innovation are:

1. Talented, rigorous, and energetic relationship/alliance guardians are competitive necessities in a world where everyone is a live node on a global network. If you don't find the right combination for innovative thinking, someone else will.

2. Network-building is a long-term, ongoing process that should enable both specific goals as well as those that will emerge over time. The latter will be unknown until they appear, but they are also competitive necessity. This is where the real innovation happens, both in the combining of resources by the network guardian and by the individuals within the relationship she fosters.

3. Networks and their results are both intangible and quite tangible indeed. They should be mapped and re-mapped with appropriate software. The relationships that seem less useful should be considered and managed with as much care as those that seem immediately useful (see 2).

4. The network guardian's responsibilities include finding and cultivating relationships for an organization, pairing relationships for the sake of innovation with each other (even if the organization itself is not immediately implicated), and training others to do her work as they take over pieces of the networks. The guardian must be able to identify those who have the kind of talent and interest in this area and then train them -- as well as those within the relationships she cultivates -- so that the networking effect becomes exponential.

Comments are welcome -- I've seen this work wonders. Anyone else working this way to excellent effect.

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