Increasing Your Leverage into Networks

The power of a network is found in its core and periphery.  As we explored in a previous blogpost, the power networks have over resource hierarchies is that they are strengthened by the same push and pull, from the core to the periphery, that tears apart resource hierarchies.  Network power increases with the strengthening of the core and the periphery, while resource power comes from the strengthening of the core or the periphery.

In most networks, the relationships to the core and the periphery are usually assumed to be static, fixed.  There is either a relationship between two nodes, or there is not.  A recent paper in Science magazine, titled “The Fundamental Advantages of Temporal Networks” suggests that most relationships between nodes in networks are not static, rather that they vary of time.  For temporal networks, where the relationships between are sometimes active and sometimes not, paying attention to the links that are active greatly increases the effectiveness of a network intervention.  From an ecosynomic perspective, this suggests that it is valuable to pay attention to the experience of vibrancy people are having, which is connecting them or not, and the continuity power of being connected to the deeper shared purpose.  Co-hosting this experience brings out the most relevant, activated links in the network, leveraging the capacity of the network to scale impact faster, at a much lower cost, the definition of high leverage.

The strength of a network is in its scalability, the number of nodes the core can support, and in its speed of transmission.  These factors enable networks to have far greater impact.  However, as the core and periphery of the network strengthen, the purpose of the network often begins to crystallize. In many networks, the focus becomes the health of the network itself.  It becomes about the network.  However, if a network is temporal and not static, the focus shifts, from pushing strongly on relationships that are assumed to be static (a high-energy push), to a continuous inquiry through relationships that are assumed to be temporal (continuity-powered relevant pathways of contribution). The focus is about the pathways of relationships that manifest an impact, not the network in its own right.  This shift in focus leads to faster transmission through the network of relationships with far less energy.  The Science article finds anecdotal data, explained through a mathematical model, that supports this idea.

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Network Power — Recommended Reading

Ramo, Joshua Cooper. The Seventh Sense: Power, Fortune, and Survival in the Age of Networks2016, New York: Little, Brown and Company.  Click here to see Chapter 1.

Most of the power gained and used in the past has been through accumulation of resources (nouns), using a dominance in the amount of resources to conquer peoples and usurp their resources.  Whether this was soldiers, weapons, food, or money, having more than the others gave you power to go and get more from other peoples.  This is a world of dominance mapped in the geography of territories.  Who had what controlled access to and accumulation of what resources.

In The Seventh SenseRamo, a seasoned traveler and senior executive of Kissinger Associates, suggests that the landscape of power is experiencing a shift in kind, more so than a shift in degree.  It is not just more power, rather a completely different kind of power, and this new power is mopping up the brokers of the old power.  This new power is network power.  The seventh sense is the ability to see the lines of network power, of the ebb and flow of connections, where the focus shifts from mapping the geography of territories to mapping the topography of gated spaces.  The power now comes not from who controls the territory but rather from who controls the gated spaces.  Think Uber, AirBnB, Amazon, Skype, Google.  Where maybe in the past you were what you had, now you are what you are connected to (p 35).

Ramo shows how this seventh sense has enabled groups with relatively small amounts of resources to completely overrun groups with vast resources.  They did this through a massive scaling up of connections to an ever-expanding core, to a protocol for connection.  Control of the core, of the protocol, is control of the connections.  The power comes from simultaneously strengthening the core along with the periphery, through all of the connections in the network.  “In connected systems, power is defined by both profound concentration and by massive distribution” (p. 116).  Concentration at the core and distribution to the periphery of connections.  Those working with “resource power” have to focus on either the core or the periphery, concentrating resources at the center or the top or at the periphery or the bottom.  Centralized or decentralized.  This ability of network power to work at both the core and the periphery, at the same time, causes those working with “resource power” to be pulled apart as they try to move towards centralization or decentralization and back (p 118).  They do not know where to put the resource power, and this movement back and forth is much slower than the ability of networks to respond.  This same movement, simultaneously towards the core and the periphery, strengthens network power and tears apart resource power.

In ecosynomic terms, network power is the power of agreements at the verb-noun levels.  Resource power is the power of agreements at the noun-only level.  Working at the verb-noun level of development of capacities and relationships, which manifest in outcomes, one is surfing in the constant ebb and flow of the concentration-distribution push and pull.  Working at the noun-only level of just outcomes, success comes from having more nouns, with no conscious connection to the dynamics over time and space of the verb level of agreements.  Tangibilization power is then the ability to work at the light, verb, and noun levels, infusing the infinite power of possibility serving a deeper shared purpose into the ossifying purpose driving the core and periphery of the network.

The Seventh Sense brings together, in a very readable form, lessons from history, a wide variety of ancient philosophies, and tons of recent anecdotes to highlight the specifics of this emerging, vastly more powerful way of engaging the world.  I highly recommend it.