Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The Community of Practice heard round the world

The Connectedness staff is back at the blog after a wonderful summer vacation. While resting at the Omega Institute, I got a hoot reading Gordon Wood's pithy history, The American Revolution. I have been addicted to founding-father bios for a few years now. Reading this high-level overview of the period gave me new clarity on the hook of my addiction: The American Revolution is arguably the greatest organizational development case study of all time. This realization put a bit of a damper on the idea that I was actually vacationing, but I enjoyed the epiphany nonetheless.

There are parts of Wood's historical analysis that seem aimed more at our current administration than its forebears. Writing after the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan but before Iraq, Wood says:
British disadvantages [in 1775] were immense and perhaps overwhelming.... A well-trained army might have been able to to conquer the American forces, but... America itself was unconquerable. The great breadth of territory and the wild nature of the terrain made conventional maneuverings and operations difficult and cumbersome. The fragmented and local character of authority in America inhibited decisive action by the British. There was no nerve center anywhere whose capture would destroy the rebellion. The British generals came to see that engaging Washington's army in battle ought to be their main objective; but, said the British commander in chief, they did not know how to do it, "as the enemy moves with so much more celerity than we possibly can."
For more on how Washington's tactics of 1776 are being used today by Hezbollah, Al Quaeda, and other social action groups, see "Networks, Netwars, and the Fight for the Future," which was originally recommended to me by Kate Ehrlich. When you read this paper, savor the irony of its opening line:
Netwar is an emerging mode of conflict in which the protagonists use network forms of organization, doctrine, strategy, and technology.... The practice of netwar is well ahead of theory, as both civil and uncivil society actors are increasingly engaging in this new way of fighting.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.5 License and is copyrighted (c) 2006 by Connective Associates except where otherwise noted.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Online identity verification and two-sided networks

Yesterday's Wall Street Journal had this on the top of its front page: "Building Trust Into Web Identities." When we interact online, it's increasingly important to know who is on the other side of the screen. There are many services emerging that provide various forms of ID verification, which are covered nicely in the article. The article goes just deep enough to give a quick nod to the forward-looking Higgins Project, which is being led by Parity Communications (mentioned here yesterday) with support from IBM and Novell.

It's important to note that ID-verification services are fighting to attract two completely different sets of users. They must enlist websites to license their technology and they must enlist users to register for IDs. Both sides are absolutely essential to any successful ID-verification service.

Several days ago I lunched with Marshall Van Alstyne as he explained this pervasive two-sided business phenomenon, which is old as the hills but only recently something specifically named and studied by economists. Marshall and his colleagues call it a "two-sided network." Stay tuned for a lot more popular business press on this topic in the near future. Meanwhile, you can see Geoffrey Parker's home page for his paper "Two-Sided Network Effects," co-authored with Marshall.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.5 License and is copyrighted (c) 2006 by Connective Associates except where otherwise noted.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Visualizing organizational change

Social network analysis is often discussed as a way to see "how an organization really works." Less often do people acknowledge that "how an organization is changing" is often even more important than "how it is working." SNA researchers are hard at work developing ways of measuring change (typically under the name of "longitudinal studies"). Unfortunately, in a field that already suffers from interesting but hard-to-use technology, longitudinal methods of SNA are even more difficult to grasp and apply than their static snapshot counterparts (by a wide margin).

All that makes it even more impressive that the Accenture Institute for High Performance Business, led by Bob Thomas, has produced a relatively accessible dramatization of how real-time dynamic SNA can be a powerful business tool in the not-too-distant future.

I had the privilege of creating this seven-minute Flash video for Bob, in collaboration with Sarah Maloney of Accenture, Paul Trevithick and Mary Ruddy of Parity Communications and Barry O'Brien of North Shore Communications. You can see our handiwork here.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.5 License and is copyrighted (c) 2006 by Connective Associates except where otherwise noted.