Networks and success; making the link
For those seeking an edge in their chosen field networks are a resource. A key contributor to success is the ability to identify meaningful networks of relationships and understand the structures through which information flows. This is because we live in an interconnected world; the connections within a ‘network society’ enable but also constrain our actions. In this world of connections Humans Huddle; whether to shelter, trade, and live or to share information, relationships, ideas and spaces.
At a personal level, networks influence the way we find information, for example the way we hear about a new job. Equally the idea we can send a message via a chain of acquaintances to a distant recipient is a well known concept that has featured in plays, inspired a charitable social network and been the subject of numerous academic studies. These connections enable communication and travel, whether we are going for a short walk round Königsberg or planning the international journey to get there.
Within a society, networks influence the health of a community. The dissemination of information, for example on sexual health, or identifying the source of a disease such as cholera rely on the understanding of the points around which people coordinate and how these points are connected. Equally the adoption of new behaviours in public health or innovation in agricultural and commercial practice, will be influenced by the structure of the networks that facilitate the exchange and diffusion of information upon which innovation is based.
Community resilience against disease is one aspect of security. Equally the ability to identify and defend against criminal activities is another element in which networks are a key factor. The identification of networks over the last twenty years has uncovered numerous corporate conspiracies including those within American heavy industry. Equally analysis has shown the completely legal sphere of influence a few individuals and corporations can extend through the interrelation between companies of their board membership.
Creating physical security against adversarial networks is a common challenge. These challenges range from terrorist and insurgent groups to more traditional military threats. The modern-day use of Social Network Analysis (and Nexus Topography) by the military has a long ancestry that extends back through the village survey method of the Vietnam War, the hardening of communications systems against nuclear strike during the early cold war, to the communication link analysis conducted during World War II. The ability to identify adversarial networks allows action to be taken on the basis of a greater understanding of the connections within a competing or adversarial community.
Whether in government, commercial or third sector, the way networks work influences the efficiency, reach, and impact of an organisation. The ability of an organisation to innovate or collaborate is fundamentally tied to the way individuals behave within organisational networks. The ability to identify and build networks is a key element to finding an edge in each area where individuals seek success in twenty first century life.