Elephants, Riders, and NetworksApril 2, 2010 Leave a comment
On Wednesday, IISC hosted an impressive group of network building practitioners to discuss what we have collectively learned and have yet to discover about building networks for social change. Melinda and I tweeted ourselves silly with participants’ insights (which you can find by searching hashtag #NTWK). While there is still so much to sort through and have sink in, one of our small group break out sessions got me thinking about how we can preach the potential of networks without turning folk away. As we talked, some pieces began to fall into place in part with the help of the work of Chip and Dan Heath.
In their most recent book Switch, the Heath Brothers distill a lot of personal and change management literature down to three steps likely to help people overcome resistance to creating individual, organizational, and social change: (1) “direct the rider” (provide intellectual clarity about the ends we seek), (2) “motivate the elephant” (engage people’s emotional selves), and (3) “shape the path” (tweak environmental factors and choose processes to make it easier for people to move forward). Applying some of Wednesday’s learnings about network building to these steps, this is some of what’s come up as strategy for bringing people to the network side of things:
- Direct the rider: People consistently made the point that we should not lead with network theory or tools. These can overwhelm people who immediately feel like they have a steep learning curve. Furthermore, telling people that they should “build a network” can be too vague and daunting. It’s really all about purpose. Get people rallied around a concrete direction or goal. What specifically are we trying to accomplish or change?
- Motivate the elephant: Use story as a way of encouraging people to engage in and stay committed to collective net work. What success stories can we tell about other networks? What’s the story we want to be able to tell about our efforts? What stories can we tell about our successes along the way (unusual partnerships, small wins, new and more effective ways of working together?)
- Shape the path: How can we make it easier for people to embrace networked ways of seeing and working? Show how they are already doing “net work” (in organizations/communities; with friends and family). Introduce tools and processes to make people’s lives and work easier as the need arises. Less is more on both the tool and structural front of networks. Furthermore, consider the “cultural” fit of tools to a particular context.
As I said, still much to process. And if you were there, or if you weren’t for that matter, what might you add/challenge?