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Talking to Nick recently, I realised that I HAD created a monster, and now he was pushing me to blog … so here I am.

A couple of things that lead to this post: Hugh’s cartoon

… and a post/presentation from Stowe Boyd a little while ago. Both making the point that increasingly individual productivity is becoming less critical than the productivity of the network you are part of, particularly in a professional sense. Boyd captures the essence of Hugh’s cartoon (perhaps unknowingly, or maybe vice-versa) with this:

“The network is mostly connections. The connections matter, give it value, not the nodes. “

Of course this is at odds with the situation most of us find ourselves in, in organisations with performance reviews, personal objectives and a top-down approach to “managing” people. And a good proportion of those who run their own business still think this way too, because it’s what we’ve known all our school and working lives.

One of the other things about working for network productivity, is that for most of us, even our professional networks are not confined to our employer … so if we help our network, the benefits may not accrue directly to our employer.

It’s probably no secret that I believe that there ARE benefits to an organisation, directly and indirectly, in this idea of moving the work to the network, assisting connections to the short-term detriment of personal productivity. This shouldn’t be a foreign concept … we’ve been urged for years to be “team players” and “collaborators” – why has it taken so long to realise that those objectives are the antithesis of personal productivity? (or has the urging to team play been less than genuine in the past?). And how many times have we been told as we moved through our careers that it’s “not what you know, but who”? It’s ALWAYS been about the network; that is how most stuff gets done … it is very rarely a lone hand effort.

The other point that Stowe makes is that this is increasingly how work gets done now, and will continue to be more so, especially when a generation who grew up with things like instant messaging join the work force. The title of Stowe’s post (“Overload, Schmoverload”) counters the “information overload” argument … if it’s important you’ll see it again, so you don’t have to pay attention to everything the first time it arrives – yes, you CAN ignore instant messages! When you see information as a river, or flow, rather than a static lake that has to be hoarded and “saved for later”, it’s easier not to get strung out on how much of it there is.

I know – your problem is that no matter how much you agree with this, it ain’t what’s happening where you work. So what do you do about that?

I’m not necessarily the right person to ask, but first step might be to highlight occasions where the “team” (whatever that term represents in your environment) achieves something, and where you contributed to that. Make sure that comes BEFORE the boss asks why you haven’t hit a deadline on a personal task, but when asked, remind her of where the effort paid off. It’s also worth remembering that SOMETHING has to be getting done … there has to be some increased network productivity, or you’re just goofing off.

Second – you COULD wait for the next generation to take over … but that might not be soon enough, AND it might still not change anything.

Third – the thing you have most control of is your own time … maybe you should be looking elsewhere. It may take some looking, and it may take some time, but I have a feeling that it will be a Darwinian process, and those organisations that fail to adapt may struggle to survive. Look around the financial system – this may be an “asteroid” event for business, and a catalyst for change.

Last word is for Stowe:

“Productivity is second to Connection: network productivity trumps personal productivity”


[Update 24 September 2017: Noticed broken links on the gapingvoid image, and Stowe Boyd’s post. Was able to find new links to a 2016 post containing an updated version of the “network v node” image (if you want to buy the image, links on that post). However, Stowe’s post seems to be missing in action … which is a shame. Will keep looking …]