Social Connections Matter

Ecological services in a living economy are vital. In a living system, connections are so important that they actually are a leverage point on both fertility and yield. These connections are a network with a weave so subtle and intricate, it is unnoticed. More often, to people anyway, these vital networks are not visible. I awe at them when observing and interacting in living systems. As a leadership and organizational development consultant, this study inspires me to be curious: What are the principals that "weave" or "unweave" our social networks?

Karen Stephenson is a brilliant anthropologist in Rotterdam and trust building consultant that helps her clients understand leadership through the "white space" on their organizational chart. She explained to me once, in an interview, that in the white spaces there are a few key connectors in any social structure. They are 1) performance, 2) knowledge and 3) exchange.

Performance connection is where what you do and what I do are co-dependent and our success depends on our performance together, as with any job we all work for the same company and all our work matters. We are a team. Side by side, forming a story of our work and a narrative of our lives.

With the knowledge connection the way we work is a connection. How we get things done, our process and our style matters. We tend to trust and attach to people when we understand how they do things. People sharing things about how they get work done, what helps and what doesn't creates more of a learning relationship. It looks either like a mentor-mentee relationship or a collaborative team. These are typically informal connections that have more trust bonds then performance connections have.

Exchanges, she explains are didactic; informational. They are more like the trainings and the performance evaluations so common in the context of work experience. Patronizing and yet consistently repeated and trust occurs.

Since the beginning of time we have had "white space" she says. She is curious how the org chart has meaning in organizations...and doesn't. The behaviors of networks (read network management vs. hierarchies) are to both weave and be woven, to get things done, to create and to exchange value.

When change happens, we weave and unweave these connections. The org chart changes, the enterprise restructures. Connections are happening and connecting us to our stories and to our work in the world all the time. Networks are always there, subtle unnoticed, until you notice, of course.

There is more I want to say on this....always.