Social Networks vs Traditional success drivers - A battle to watch out for
The answer is – (a) The fact that in spite of its emergence as a decisive player in shaping the fortunes of an organization, SNs still have a discreet level of acceptance of being a catalyst, and (b) Is enough being done in the research, academic and corporate circles to highlight SNs as an unarguably powerful entity in years to come?
What according to me is most critical to our discussion is the interpretation of the keywords emboldened in the introductory paragraph. Talking of an organization as a social arrangement of entities which pursue collective goals, we can start with companies working for profits and also consider governments having a common goal of efficient administration. A terrorist outfit having a central goal of destruction and an NGO dedicated to social causes, are forms of organization which although take the discussion to a different level, but are extremely relevant.
Similarly, every entity has its own parameters for success, as defined above, and the factors which drive this success can range from competitive advantage in terms of resources (human capital, money), technology, opportunity, foresightedness, planning, and above all – the will to combine all of the above forces and work towards realization of a common goal for the organization.
A driver can actually be main or the most important factor of the organization’s success, and still be not recognized as being so. Thus, its true potential would never be realized if the organization and its stakeholders do not work towards leveraging the advantages provided by that driver.
Joel M. Podolny & Karen L. Page define Networks in “Network Forms of Organization,” Annual Review of Sociology, Vol. 24, No. 1 (August 1998), pp. 58–59, as “any collection of actors (N > 2) that pursue repeated, enduring exchange relations with one another and at the same time lack a legitimate organizational authority to arbitrate and resolve disputes that may arise during the exchange”.
So, if we take any combination of the stated keywords (i.e. different types of organizations, networks, drivers, success and time frame) can we conclusively say that their existence or established position in their respective domains is attributed to the Social Networks of their constituents? I guess it would be a bold statement at this point of time, simply for the lack of evidence and acceptability.
Hence, concurring with a few other colleagues of mine, I would say the only obstacle which seems to come in the way of SNs being recognized as a main driver of organizational success by 2020, is measurability or metrics of the value which they create for its stakeholders and the social friction which they generate. Unless the Granovetters and the Powells succeed in their decades long search for a framework that captures the dynamics and the behaviour of networks, which would establish quantitative grounds apart from qualitative deductions out of a network, it would be difficult to displace the traditional key drivers such as efficiency, competitive advantage, novelty of ideas etc.
Going on to establish the purpose of my above arguments, which is well within the lines of the subject of this blog – Writing about a website or article interesting/helpful for the debate – I preferred to look for theories rather than examples, and used the ones I found, to further mould my own understanding of the subject matter, and have tried to come up with a logical approach to our debate.
Inspirations for my thoughts have come from a fascinating article “Network Theory – the Emergence of the Creative Enterprise” written by Albert-László Barabási of the University of Notre Dame, which I bumped upon in the article “Social Graphs: Concepts and Issues”, wherein he builds the plot by citing Isaac Asimov’s portrayal of a psychohistorian in his novel Foundation Trilogy, and fantastically depicts the evolution of scientific network enterprise.
of Illicit Networks” by Mette Eilstrup-Sangiovanni and Calvert Jones.
That was my 2 cents worth on Social Networks :-)