Friday, 12 December 2008

The dark side of networking

 

   The Demos report, Network Citizens that I referred to in my last post on Cisco notes that as well as considerable benefits (including creativity, innovation and freedom, meritocracy, openness and democracy), organisational networks can lead to certain downsides ('the dark side'), in that they can:
  • Exclude and discriminate
  • Enable people to hoard power for themselves
  • Promote the interests of the few.

 

The problem is that networks reflect the people who constitute them. So if the interests of these people and therefore the network and the firm diverge, this can increase problems rather than opportunities:

“Virtual, online network, power is generally less visible than in the formal organisation – where organograms clearly show who has authority and accountability… In a network, the rivers of power often flow underground… Without enough attention, these challenges jeopardize the very gains we presume networks can deliver.”

 

So network managers need to ask themselves:

  • "Am I excluding some people from my network for no good reason?
  • Does the network extend across gender and ethnic boundaries? Should it?
  • What are the unwritten rules of network exchange – and are they fair?"

 

Demos' findings relate very closely to Rob Goffee's and Gareth Jones' research on sociability, that I've been reading after hearing Gareth Jones speak recently, and which I will review in my next post.

 

 

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