The boundaries of companies dissolve in favor of cross-border networks. Actors and relationships, interests and data, expectations and information, business models and knowledge find their way on the Internet. Joining an online community can make the difference for individuals and groups. Whether private or business – it is helpful to know the new realities, the properties of a network.
The effects of the net can be better exploited, if you know its characteristics.
The number of actors/nodes amount to the size of the network. The more participants, the greater the benefit of the network. Additional offers, which exceed the actual purpose, expand the scope of application. A historical example illustrates the importance of size: the more people with a telephone, the more people can be reached, the more people have a telephone and the more services (e.g. information, routing, wake-up calls, telephone counseling) can be marketed. Based on the Dunbar number, the natural limit of social relationships is 150 persons, between 100 and 250. Based on the average number of Facebook friends per user of over 300 (between 250 and 500) you can presume that in the social networks of the Internet the Dunbar number doubles.
The actors become interconnected with one another to a more or less close meshed network. The number of actual relationships between the actors/nodes together with the possible number of connections determine the density of meshing. If the resulting connectivity is very dense, the network has a great impact on each individual. Loose attachment appears in the lack of social relationships and subsequently with frustration as well as isolation. The density can be represented by the number of relationships in respect to the possible relationships – e.g. a network of 8 people has (8-1) * (8/2) = 28 possible relationships; in this example all people are centrally only linked to one person, but not to each other, resulting in 7 relationships; this corresponds to a density of 0.25.
The relationships that get out of the network determine the degree of openness. Prerequisite is the definition of the network boundaries. In companies, they are today much more permeable due to partnerships, joint ventures and outsourcing. The project relationships lead to frequent changes of the network members. The openness results from the number of external relationships in respect to the possible relationships. They are double-edged. On the one hand, a network gains new ideas and members through openness. On the other hand, experiences and insights unintentionally flow out of the network, and people get the opportunity to exert undesirable influence through openness.
Networks have a certain life of their own because of the large number of actors. Perseverance describes the degree of stability. It results from the increase of members and relationships, the changing degree of formal structure, and the general direction, i.e. growth, consolidation or shrinkage of the network Too much change endangers the perseverance and results in the formation of new networks or internal group building.
The time it takes to bring insights to all nodes defines the speed. This information flows through the relationships. With respective channels, actors can communicate in different ways, such as email, intranet, or by exchanging ideas. The distribution can take place by pull or push principle. The pull principle is based on information needs – knowledge is obligation to search; trigger is the target audience; mostly bottom-up. The push principle is aligned to the needs for informing – knowledge is an obligation to deliver; triggers are the information sources; mostly top-down. Built-in feedback, such as receipt confirmation or collection of comments, allow assumptions about the speed.
Bottom line: The network is the most likely organizational format in times of VUCA. The membership benefits are determined primarily by the number of users. Other characteristics are the density, openness, perseverance and the speed of the information flow. Although the network properties allow a better control, it is still necessary to continuously observe and evaluate the network due to the self-organizing members.
Deserts are natural phenomenon that results from their position on earth. They are characterized by a large dryness. Excessive heat, but also extreme cold make it hard to survive. The largest desert is the Antarctica with more than 13 million square kilometers. The dry zones around the equator continuously grow due to human influence. An extreme example is the Aral Sea, which shrank from originally 68,000 square kilometers to currently 13,900 due to diversion of its inflows. This impacts dramatically the region and its inhabitants. Nevertheless, there exists life everywhere. That makes the desert an ideal metaphor for scarce resources.
Due to the competitive pressure and yields of the enterprises that have to be realized within short time the executives have to cope with more and more scarce funds. The desert and its reality offer analogies that direct the attention of decision makers to the available possibilities.
- Scarcity of resources
Against normal conceptions the desert consists not only of sand, but also of flints, stones, rocks, salt or ice. The scarceness of water and the rare places, where you find it, is common to all. Within the enterprise similar conditions exist and the means become ever scarcer. Like the Bedouins developed certain abilities for finding water, experienced decision makers find sources that can be exploited.
A desert extends over millions or over only 2.6 square kilometers (Carcross Desert). Accordingly, there are companies with a hundred thousand and small enterprises with a handful of employees. A large expansion results in far apart oases that offer the refreshing wet. But even a small size requires aptitude in finding the available means.
- Far apart, but attainable sources
Over centuries the desert sons learned how to find the vital sources. Different kinds are groundwater, river water or spring water oases, in which they get easily to the vital wet with the right approach. These sources are often located far away from each other, but attainable with the desert ships or per pedes. Accordingly, the corporate budgets are distributed. In order to reach them, you must know where, how fast and by which formalisms they can be exhausted.
- Use of the existing reservoirs
In the desert the water is in the ground, in plants or in the shady air. The Bedouins are able to extract the humidity with appropriate tools from the local sources. That way they move from one oasis to the next and survive the life-threatening desert. It needs a better understanding of the restrictions of financial and personnel corporate resources. Subsequently the executives could again learn to master their tasks with on-board means, i.e. the expert knowledge of the employees and the existing infrastructure.
- Process the existing ideally
If you find large quantities of water that exceeds the need by far, it is wasted without prevision. Only if it becomes scarce, people start thinking, how they can spend it at best. Instead of pouring the water into the front gardens for green grass, service providers in California squirt green color on the dried up grass. The actually dead planting shines than green, although without juice. Many managers are lacking a feeling for smarter application of the existing means, the so-called on-board means. Everybody can throw the sufficiently existing money meaningless with both hands out of the window. But limited means need expert knowledge and fantasy.
- Fluctuations of temperature
In deserts the temperatures vary due to the clear sky around the fifty degrees. This can lead to the fact that you drain by day with sixty degrees and at night you catch a cold with ten degrees. The corporate budgets are also subjected to extreme fluctuations. As a consequence there are in peak periods too high expenditures followed by life-threatening shortenings, as soon as the income does not flow as needed. With the respective precautions, the inhabitants of the desert protect themselves with appropriate clothing. Accordingly, everybody in the enterprise should be able to prepare for tough times.
- Adjustments to the rhythm
The Bedouins adapt to the rhythm of nature. They rest during the day in tents, when the sun is at its highest point and camp at night and warm themselves at a fire, when the cold from space reaches them. In enterprises this behavior is missing. The budget processes always follow the same rules. The budget of the previous year is the framework for the subsequent year. The entire budget is distributed, without building reserves for bad times. Budgets are administered by people far from the core processes, whose goals are nothing else than generating savings and/or at best to prevent the over-run of the budget.
Bottom line: The desert is an ideal metaphor for scarce resources. You can adjust yourself to this scarcity, be aware of the consequences that result from the scope of the tasks, getting along with the distributed and given sources, applying the existing means more effectively, delivering results despite market fluctuations and reacting to perturbations in an experienced way – like in the desert.