As we posted earlier, the Discovery Network's Science Channel (thank you, Joe Wehr) premieres "Connected: The Real Matrix" tonight, Sunday, February 15, at 9pm EST (and PST). As our friends at Future of Work note in their cross-post, "the program will also be repeated on Monday, February 16, at 12:00 AM, and on Tuesday, February 17 at4 AM (again, EST and PST). Maybe not the greatest times, but you can always set your trusty DVR to pick it up for you."
The TV show emphasizes the general applicability of the new network science to complex systems. We here at NetAge have applied this same science to organizations. As we've written, OrgScope is the tool we developed to visualize and analyze organizations as networks. So the show is the perfect lead-in to the next installment of our NetAge Working Papers series on management science for networked organizations:
"Revolution in Networks: Applying the New Science of Networks to Organizations." (Download Revolution in Networks)
We present the concept of “organization network science” as an application of the new network science, as described in the "Connected" show. As described in this working paper, the new science includes the concept of “scale-free networks” and their signature pattern of hubs developed by Albert-László Barabási and others. A second stream of new network thinking, personified by Duncan Watts, reveals how a few “shortcuts” dramatically reduce path lengths to form “small-world networks.” We reframe generic network principles of growth and “preferential attachment” for use in understanding and managing organizations as networks. At the paper’s end, we retrace in organizational terms a Barabási simulation of how a network grows, and address the development of hierarchical networks.
Here are a few paragraphs from the paper:
Background on the Network Revolution
Over the past few years, a new “science of networks” has rapidly woven across the physical, biological, and social domains, bringing the simplicity of common characteristics to diverse complex systems.
Our field work at the leading edge of global organizational development confirms that this new “linked” science applies directly and immediately to highly-complex organizations. It is our hope that a true theory-based, data-driven, testable science of “organizational networks” will enable an historic step-change increase in human organizational capabilities. Great ambition, but even modest improvements in collaboration could have widespread application and deep impact. We believe this new knowledge can substantially improve our collective ability to work together better, a clear imperative imposed by the era’s economic interdependence, digital information technologies, accelerating globalization, and deepening human power to modify ourselves and the world around us.
So what’s new about networks according to the latest research? In a phrase, they are organic, scale-free, small worlds. The new network science grasps complex networks by their nodes and maps their links, generating useful metrics related to configurations that help identify hubs, shortcuts, and all manner of characteristics that are directly applicable to organizations.
-- Jeff Stamps