Networks: evolution or necessary revolution?

Article publishes in: BOSS Magazine, Delft University of Technology, december 2008.

Networks as `a way of life'. It has been proven not to be just a hype. Those who have slightly followed the social developments of the previous decades, may have noticed that numerous old institutionalized relatives have lost their strength. And that brings new forms of establishing contact with a different character. A lot of new technical possibilities lead to more complex surroundings and questions a new way of thinking and actions to deal with this more complex world. In terms of knowledge and ability much more is required compared to the ‘50’s and ‘60’s. Life in those days was relatively simple and the surroundings were less complex (less variety and dynamic changes).

Changing paradigm not only in science.
Is there a deeper underlying pattern in all these changes? The science historian Thomas Kuhn discussed in its book `The structure or scientific revolutions’ 1 the phenomenon of science development. He describes how two periods in science differ from each other: normal science and revolution. According to Kuhn these passages arise because scientists want to operate within what he called paradigm. Those are intellectual frameworks which scientists themselves have been generally taught and are interwoven with. Emotionally they are most of the time not willing and not able to easily let go. A paradigm is defined as a coherent scheme of values and standards which forms an intellectual framework from which ' reality' is being analyzed and approached. 2

What Kuhn observed in scientists the futurologist Joel Barker also observed in developments in companies and social processes. 3 Barker defines a paradigm as a mental model, which does two things:
• It establishes perceptual borders permanently (what can I observe respectively, what can I not correctly observe);
• It shows you how to solve a problem from within those observed borders.

Looking at these changes in paradigm, the work of Dr. Clare W. Graves proves to be interesting. 4 Important is that his model offers insight in types of networks and their relationship to certain types of surroundings.

Complexity of surroundings and a new system of importance
New context (read: surroundings complexities) asks for new ways of thinking.
At the same time, specific paradigms can only manage a specific level of complexity. These were some of the basic principles which dr. Clare W. Graves formulated as a result of his study concerning the development of paradigms which he called ‘ systems of importance’. In his study which extended over 35 years, Graves saw a clear development in which one paradigm logically originated from another paradigm.

There is an alternating effect. The more ‘we’-orientated way of thinking alternates with the ‘I’-oriented way of thinking. Graves indicated the systems of importance with letters. AN, BO, CP, DQ, ER, FS, GT. The first letter (A,B,C,…) represented the type of surroundings and the second letter (N,O,P,…) the way of thinking necessary to solve the problems in that surroundings.

At least four of these systems of importance are interesting when exploring developments regarding the social side of networks. Under networking I understand the process of forming informal relationships by people around a central subject. This subject can be a neighborhood, a theme, an individual, etc.

DQ: the loyal and absolutistic society
In case of DQ there is a norm/deviation of the norm thinking. The way you think is absolute: good against evil. Or more general: dichotomy, thinking in or/or instead of and/and. Black and White. Thinking in different kind of shades is not possible.

This holds a strong sensitivity towards hierarchy and linear top-down power mechanisms and the written word, rules and directives. It is a system of importance of the bureaucracy. There is the belief that the World can be controlled and must be controlled by means of rules, directives, orders, procedures and punishment.

DQ is here ‘we’-orientated. The fundament of thinking generally aims towards uniformity and one standard for everyone. With such a way of thinking you can handle a society which involves a high level of stability and contains civilians loyal to authority and a limited level of complexity

People with a lot of DQ believe that there is only one good interpretation of a text. When such a fundamental thinking is dominant there is a strong need to proclamate the norm from a sort of messian feeling. Receivers with a lot of DQ which receive such a message, want to receive strict rules. In that way they feel secure.

In this world it is not common to talk about networks. The formal rolls are more important and determine whom one can socialize with and whom not. Networks in this World are relatively stabile strongholds. For example the Rotary, an association or the neighborhood. Networks usually are limited to the people in the close surroundings

ER: Individual choice possibilities. Personal Profiling. Success is your motto!
ER thinks is much more inclined to think in alternatives and possibilities of choice, and is more ‘I- oriented.

It is the question if this value system has to deal with rules and directives: “What can I do with it? Where is the stretch?” Because ER thinks in alternatives he can tackle a bigger complexity than the dichotomous DQ and does always find a way out to get around or bypass the legalization and the good/wrong way of thinking.

It is a fundamental thinking which has had enough of authority that wants to decide and determine by it self. That is why law and order (which has a dichotomous character) more and more gets behind on the facts when this value system gets more dominant in the society.

At the same time there is something to say for thinking like ‘the sky is the limit’. It can always be better, more and bigger and in addition without due regard for limitations of the system. For each problem a technical solution should be possible. ER is sensitive to personal image, success and booking results. Personal profiling is a part of the range of skills.

This causes a fundamental difference in thinking about networking. It is more ‘you are who you know’. For ER networking has also the characteristics of strategy development. Who should I know to achieve results and to improve personally. This way of thinking sees it self as ‘the centre of his own network’. This in contrast to the previous value system which feels more part of a whole.
Networking also means, creating opportunities to meet people. That is why networking in ER becomes a way of life to get personal better in the world.

FS: empathy, relations and equality
With FS empathy, relations and relativism are important. It translates into equality, forms of transparency and an increasing number of  degrees of freedom by comparison with the previous value systems. Relativism on a basis of empathy and relationships brings much understanding in a group so people value each others opinion.

Within FS natural mechanism are available to connect people and opinions. Because of this fundamental thinking one can tackle a bigger complexity. The worlds’ common good stands central taking into account that the goals of a company are derived from serving society and continuation of earning without damaging all those concerned. The latter doesn’t mean maximizing but earn enough to make a living and to invest.

Networks in FS are “We” orientated. The focus is on promoting good relationships under the motto: “Not only the points (people) but especially also the lines (relationships) between the points who help to achieve results”.
This paradigmatic system has an almost obvious network orientated, interactive way of acting. Mostly concentrated around relevant themes of the society. Think of  globalising in a different way, enterprise in a society orientated way, cradle to cradle, etc.

GT: a systematic manner of knowing and feeling without leaving a footprint behind.
Within this value system you are not so committed to what other people say about you and, just like FS, you’re not committed to hierarchy. In that way it is a “I” orientated system. What you own in ethical way is respect for your environment, emanating from the need for not leaving a footprint on this earth. GT finds itself in complex and long-term problems very interesting. The source where you can find relevant information doesn’t matter anymore. It could be the garbage man or a professor. The only thing that counts is the quality of information.

The approach of systematic thinking stands central. This means that besides the quality of the relations the real longer period will be systematically discounted in a train of thought in which the central question is: “How can the system “itself” in a natural way function and continue?” You will experience yourself as “a part of the system” and you don’t have to score as is the case with ER. If you act out of a GT-thinking approach you have to ask yourself: “How can that come back to me?”

You realise that you are a part of the system earth and society. Consequently GT knows and feels a clear feedback loop between its acting and the mutual effect thereof in his surroundings. Because of its long term effect, this manner of thinking obviously doesn’t damage the nature and society.

In GT networks are more functional networks. If it’s necessarily you are working together but you can also work on your own. You’re less involved with relations compared with FS. You are part of a changeable network dependent of you’re interests on that moment.

Organization structures and context complexities
In 1967 the book ‘Organization and Environment’ of Lawrence and Loch was published, these were two American management experts. In this book they explained that organizations, depending on subjective observed characteristics of the ‘same’ environment, could make different choices with regard to their arrangement and style. In those days the idea was that the objective environment did not exist for all organizations who operate in the same area of expertise and in the same market. This meant a revolution in the philosophy about organizations. In 1973 Jay Galbraith came to his contingency theory based on this way of thinking and stating that:

‘There is no best way to organize.’
There is not one way of organizing. It can be done one way, or another. A certain solution is acceptable, but another which seems contradicting, is also a possibility.
‘Any way of organizing is not equally effective.’
Something can be organized right or less and everything that is organized right, can be organized better tomorrow. 5

Still it appears, in addition to the statements of Galbraith, that with common sense there it can also be assumed that there is an implicit relation between organization development and increasing environment complexities. It turns out that there is indeed a distinct line in more effective forms of organizing.   

The relation of environmental developments, organisational development and flexibility
In many organisations flexibility is getting more and more an issue. By many of those companies it’s already usual to set up less detailed and more common function descriptions which results in a multi-employable person. In addition you can say in a broad sense, with regard to organisational structures, that those structures can provide a flexible behavior. Hereby a relation is taken for granted between flexibility and handling increasing context complexity. This leads to the following scheme: 6

Scheme 1: relation between context complexity and structure flexibility.
Free translation from: ‘Chaorder’ van Titia v.d. Berg & Janet Vollebregt

Context complexity
                                                                                  virtual netwerkorganisation  
                                                                       networkorganisation                     post-modern
                                                           projectorganisation                                  organisations
                                     unitorganisation                   modern
                     hiërarchical organisation                       organisations

                                                                                      Increasing structure flexibility

Notable in this scheme is that networking in a hierarchical structure is shifting to networking as organisational foundation. Moreover there is notably a clear relation with the value systems of Clare W. Graves. DQ (law-abiding, absolutist), fitting the classical hierarchical organization. A mixture of DQ and ER at the unit and matrix organisations. Strong ER (personal profiling) at the project organization, FS and GT at the network structure and the virtual network structure.

Networks as organisational basis.
Network organisations are much opener then their traditional predecessors and moreover much more maneuverable and flexible. These degrees of freedom, like already have been indicated, are necessary to handle more increasingly complex surroundings. An organisation which has evolved to a network community characterises itself by a focus on relations and cooperation, an open network democracy and the capacity of people to manage. They don’t longer wait for a boss to tell them what to do. In a network organisation a ‘boss’ is out of the question. 

Especially from FS-manner of thinking they can thrive easily. If networking will become the basis of organisations, it will become more important than the more hierarchical manner of thinking like in DQ. That means that networking is becoming a structure basis for organisations as well.
Karen Stephenson, specialist in the field of networking gives an example in her article the quantum theory or trust. 7 She distinguishes a number of network types as a substitute/supplement for the traditional departments:

The work network
With whom do you exchange your information as a component of your daily routine.
Social network
With whom do you check in or out of the office to find out what is going on.
Innovation network
With whom do you exchange your information and speak about your more fundamental new ideas.
Expert knowledge network
To whom do you go for expertise or recommendation
Career personally strategic network
To whom do you go for (personal) recommendation concerning the future
With whom do you keep/search contact because of your career
Learning network
With whom do you cooperate to improve existing processes or methods.
Moreover Karen distinguishes three types of nodes in networks:
The knowledge hub
A knowledge hub is an individual who has such a good connection with others (networks) that he takes a very important role in continuing the stream of information.
It is the kind of person that is the collecting and sharing point. If a knowledge hub disappears in an organisation, generally a large part of implicit knowledge disappears.
Field surveyors
field surveyors carefully cultivate relations which makes it possible to them to lead the Executive Board of the organisation. They understand the organisation very well.
The gatekeeper
Gatekeepers are information bottlenecks, who determine the flow of contacts to a certain part of the organisation. In many organisations managers are on those spots.

Network communities conform rules to human relations and not the other way around. This is a fundamental difference compared to the classical hierarchies and bureaucracies. The latter strive for conformation of the human relations to the rules, while in networks relations are considered to be the elixir of the cooperation aimed network communities 8. A network is a maneuverable organization. Due to its open character and diffuse relation to its environment, a network will never be stable in the traditional sense of the word. A continuous stream of new information remains to flow through the network. 9

The attention for the connection between people provides a natural flow in which, additional to the continuously renewed information, ‘Neue Kombinationen’ develop: new combinations of talents, knowledge and personal interests that lead to new products, actions and innovation. This results into a raised adaptation capability respectively an improved fit of a more complex environment.

A network, especially with the current state of technology, enables members of an organization to connect to each other and people outside the organization. Boundaries of organizations diffuse. Additionally in words used by Kevin Kelly, the founder of Wired Magazine, it can be said that people from outside an organization can act as staff members and staff members as external employees. Due to these new relations the roles of staff members and clients fade until they become alike as a result of which clients and the organization become one.

In a relation at least two parties are involved that invest in the relation. The value of a relation is twice the size off one of a single member. The current network technology is the catalyst of what Kelly says: “The network economy relies on technology, but it can only be developed on the basis of relations. It does start with chips, but ends with trust.”10 You could also say that trust is the start and chips can easily weave an open network society around it.

To conclude
With this article I want to make clear that there is an evolutionary development in the perception off networks as a way of life as well as in function of thinking about organizations. But that does not mean that this development naturally occurs. The aforementioned Clare W. Graves said that once a system that in its way of thinking can not adapt to increasing environmental complexities, dies the entropy-Death. Entropy as a measure of 'disorder'. You create such a big chaos by your manner of thinking and acting that another 'fundamental thinking" becomes necessary. If that is not possible the system will die.

Looking around us, to all the problems and debates about globalization, environment, energy and CO2, it seems network thinking and organizing on the basis of a FS and GT – like manner makes a necessary contribution to the proper handling and solution of it. The above mentioned Thomas Kuhn indicated that it takes about 30 years before scientists accept a new scientific theory and handle as a new paradigm in their own work.11 The question is whether we still have time enough. In this meaning, learning right from the networks' fundamental thinking is not only a trend but, in all socio-psychological 'fundamental' changes of this and related resistance this entails, probably also a necessary revolution.

Max Herold works as a senior organizational consultant for the Future Center of the Academy of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment. He is the driving spirit behind the highly popular website
He studied personnel work, business administration, management information science, marketing and a lot of change management. Max Herold wrote three books including “think unveiled foundations.” This book is seen as a Dutch standard in the field of Spiral Dynamics and the work of Dr. Clare W. Graves.

1 Structure of scientific revolutions.  Auteur: Kuhn, T. Uitgeverij University of Chicago, 1962
2 Denkfundamenten ontsluierd. Auteur: Herold, M. Leiden,, Leiden, 1995
3 Paradigma’s: mentale modellen voor de toekomst Auteur: Barker, J. Uitgeverij Scriptum, Schiedam, 1996.
4 For an overview of his work, see
5 Information about ‘Organisations and environments’ from Lawrence and Lorch and also information about the  contingentytheory are to be found in a summary of the book Provocatief adviseren. Author: Weggeman, M. Uitgeverij Scriptum, Schiedam, 2003. Zie:
6 Chaorder: passion and identity as a basis for user oriented architecture. Auteurs: Berg, T. Van den & Vollebrecht, J. Uitgeverij: Chaorder Foundation, Barcelona, 2002.
7 Karen Stephenson’s Quantum Theory of Trust.  Auteur: Art Kleiner. Blad: Strategy + Business, 4th Quarter, 2002.
8 Machtswisseling in management: naar de zelfsturende organisatie. Auteurs: Cloke, K. en Goldsmith, J. Uitgeverij Business Contact, Amsterdam, 2003.
9 Informatiom about non-lineairity and feedback, see: Het Levensweb. Auteur: Capra, F. Uitgeverij Kosmos –Z&K, Utrecht/Antwerpen, 1996.
10 Nieuwe regels voor de nieuwe economie. Auteur: Kelly, K. Uitgeverij Nieuwezijds, Amsterdam, 2000.
11 Innovation and enterpreneurship. Auteur: Drucker, P. Butterworth-Heinemann, Oxford, 1985 (pag 102).