I had a virtual exchange the other day with Jane Wei-Skillern of Stanford University, as we discussed different ideas for going beyond case studies to help engage people in thinking in networked ways. This is what came to mind at the time, and I am eager to hear from others what you have done:
- In the past I have asked people to think about network forms or topologies (hub and spoke, mesh, distributed); assign different forms to pairs/trios and have them think about what examples of that form exist in their lives. What are the strengths of that form? What are its limitations? How might they shift it to be more “effective” in terms of desired impact?
- For a more visceral impact, I have shared the “Story of Sameer and Vinay” slideshow from The Dragonfly Effect website, with some musical accompaniment, and ask what gets provoked. This is a powerful story about a network that literally has saved thousands of lives.
- I have also used the “Triangles Exercise” where people stand in a circle, and are invited to silently select two other people in the circle. Then when I say “go”, they silently try to position themselves physically so that they form an equilateral triangle with those two people (without letting those two people know who they are). I stop the movement a few times and ask how many people are in their equilateral triangles. After a few minutes I stop the exercise and ask for reflections. What does this remind people of? Can they think of a way to “solve” this challenge?
- Another thought is to present the framework of Connectivity, Alignment, and Action functions of networks. Then have people pick a network in their lives and analyze its functionality. Is this sufficient? What else might be done to increase the networks impact?
- One other thought, a bit more abstract, is to present your (Jane’s) network principles from “Cracking the Network Code”, and perhaps this extension of those and then have people look at a particular organizational challenge and see what happens if they “flip orthodox practice.”