The underestimated power of networking

In many organizations there is now an enterprise social network. That’s simply because it’s what you do today, and because the younger employees in particular are well versed in social media and appreciate and expect this kind of communication. However, few employees and even fewer managers have understood neither the shift of power such a enterprise social network can mean nor the creative potential of networking.

In his speech to the Enquete Commission Internet and Digital Society of the German Bundestag on July 3, 2010, Prof. Dr. Peter Kruse very succinctly explained the revolutionary explosiveness of the Internet and especially that of social media. A high degree of connectivity, high spontaneous activity and circular stimulation lead to non-linear effects. The better people are connected and the easier it is to share something quickly and the better these contents can circulate, the sooner and the more powerful are such viral, non-linear effects. In principle, these can neither be planned nor predicted; at best it is possible to be close to the markets and conversations in order to develop a “feeling for the resonance patterns of society” (Peter Kruse).

Being able to reach many people within a very short time and finding resonance ultimately means power. Or a threat to the prevailing power structures, which are also always based on an informational edge and an imbalance in the means and channels of communication. The authorities and their opinions also find resonance in social networks, but others as well and perhaps even more so. Or in the words of Peter Kruse:”You get an extremely powerful customer, an extremely powerful employee and an extremely powerful citizen.”

You get an extremely powerful customer, an extremely powerful employee and an extremely powerful citizen.

But why should this shift in power be brought into the organization in the form of an enterprise social network? Because this resonance by far is not only to be seen in a negative light, but also offers a democratic-creative resonance space for topics and ideas. And these will be the ideas concerning the organization’s future: innovations, improvements and new business ideas. Or simply the short channels of service to help a customer very pragmatically.

However, the breeding grounds for these effects are less relevant and sometimes also trivial communication, which serves to establish and deepen links between people. Viewed in isolation, it is therefore of little use and looks like a waste of time when people photograph and share their food. But perhaps it is precisely this shared passion for barbecue that creates the decisive links for a groundbreaking innovation. Humans are social beings. Communities, however, are based on trust and each of these small seemingly pointless interactions creates a bit of trust by discovering and developing similarities.

Power is of two kinds. One is obtained by the fear of punishment and the other by acts of love. Power based on love is a thousand times more effective and permanent then the one derived from fear of punishment.
~Mahatma Gandhi

There would be many reasons to take good care of an enterprise social network, so that high connectivity, spontaneous activity and circular stimulation create non-linear effects. For the employees, because they gain power and can contribute in a holistic way beyond their roles, but also for the management, because they quickly see what is relevant to the employees and what is currently capable of resonating in the organization. The prerequisite for this, however, is a well-developed capacity for empathy on the part of the formally powerful ones.

Practical experience shows, however, that the use of the enterprise social network is at best halfhearted and inconsistent. It is being introduced because this is what you do now, and because others are doing it as well and because employees are demanding it. However, networking and spontaneous activity are then consciously or unconsciously suppressed or at least not consistently promoted. Networking is often only possible in the already known context of the organization, i. e. within the respective department or project and often in closed groups. The activity is then limited to the flow of information in the usual direction of descending power. Real discussions on other topics are rare and are often dismissed as a waste of time (“Doesn’t he have anything to do?”) From the perspective of the powerful, this may be understandable, but it is not particularly wise and farsighted. For all others, however, the following applies:

If you want to achieve greatness, stop asking for permission!
~Eddie Colla

Originally published at on January 1, 2018.