Networked thoughts and networked emotions

by eskokilpi

Since our individual views are always biased and since we cannot experience everything ourselves, other people become the co-creators of information, experience and meaning. Relationships, connections with others, create a networked way of knowing.

Because of more and more specialized, narrow skill sets, new ways of doing things with new definitions are emerging. Nobody can be successful without supporting contributions. One new role definition coming from Barry Nalebuff and Adam Brandenburger is a “complementor”. A complementor is not the same as a supplier. The connection is based on a non-hierarchic, voluntary network relationship, not the hierarchic value chain.

Complementary contributions may be the most important explanation of business success today. A classic example of complements is computer hardware and computer software. The greatest hardware engineers are in dire straits without the greatest software programmers. Though the idea of complements is most apparent in ICT, the principle is universal: you can never have in-house all the specialized skills you need.

A complement to an offering is another offering that makes it more attractive. People value sausages more when they have mustard. Because work is specialized, it does not pay to try to make both. The new strategic imperative is to identify complementors and to be inviting to them. To be competitive, is to be selfishly collaborative.

In the world of complementary competences, information becomes a process of continuous iteration and networked negotiation. Information networks are the architecture of work and a valuable, shared resource making the interactive movement of thought possible. These networks are the new commons.

Sociologists call such shared resources public goods. A private good is one that the owners can exclude others from using. Private has been valuable and public without much value during the era of scarcity economics. This is now changing in a dramatic way. On the new commons people with many ties and many complementors are better informed and have more signaling power, while those outside the commons and with few ties may be left behind. This may even be the new digital divide.

Network inequality creates and reinforces inequality of opportunity.

Emotional contagion is a fact of life. It means that not only information but our moods and even physical health are created in interaction with other people. We tilt either to the positive or tilt to the negative as a result of our relations, and the further relations, the people that we relate with have. It is a chain of contagion that goes far beyond the horizon.

We could, in theory, make an inventory that evaluates the “richness” of our relationships. My friend Marcial Losada has made breakthrough findings on interaction. The thought-provoking model he has created, which is based on decades of research, has three variables and three parameters. The variables are inquiry-advocacy, positivity-negativity, and other-self or external-internal orientation. The three parameters are connectivity, which is the critical control parameter, negativity bias and resistance to change.

According to Marcial, people are most successful when they are well connected, positive, and are able to balance external vs. internal orientation as well as inquiry vs. advocacy. John Gottman on the other hand, has found that in an enduring, happy relationship, a couple experience five times more positivity than negativity in interaction. If we take the work of Nalebuff/Brandenburger, Losada and Gottman seriously, as we should, it would mean that there is a golden mean for any ongoing relationship in our lives.

Organizations are patterns of relating between people. The critical success factor for a social business is to understand that we share feelings much more than we share information.


Thank you Barry Nalebuff, Adam Brandenburger, Marcial Losada, John Gottman and Kenneth Gergen