When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. - Hunter S. Thompson

23 September 2008

The sort of groupthink that can lead an enterprise over a cliff with remarkable efficiency

[The]"old-boy" scenario raises the problem of network redundancy, when everyone in the network has longstanding bonds with everyone else in the network. While this results in a high level of trust, it also is a recipe for the sort of groupthink that can lead an enterprise over a cliff with remarkable efficiency.

Yes, you want a bunch of smart people in the room, but you don't want them to be the same smart people. The best networks--the ones that generate the most innovative thinking, that are able to keep themselves from veering too far in one direction or another--are the ones that link together multiple, overlapping clusters that collectively represent a range of perspectives and resources. The job of the person at the top is to focus the creative tension that results.

Obama seems to intuitively grasp this principle. Abner Mikva, the former Federal judge and Chicago congressman who served as an early Obama mentor recalls that from the beginning Obama would ask, "'Do you know So-and-So?'" and then Mikva would set up a lunch. But Obama went beyond merely expanding his Rolodex. He strategically reached out to people who could connect him with various groups, and then positioned himself as the link between them.

This type of positioning was key to his own meteoric rise--in social network analysis, being the bridge is where the power is: you're the guy who represents access to the other group--but it also happens to result in a framework for the kind of robust information exchange that best advances complex agendas and responds to multifaceted crises.

In the end, we don't just elect people to office. We elect their social networks--and their judgments about using (or not using) those networks to everyone's best advantage.
I was really tempted to "excerpt" the whole article. You really should go read the whole thing; Bradley Bloch is working on a system of social network analysis that has some very intriguing possibilities.

Bradley W. Bloch: All The President's Networks (Huffington Post)

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