Last Wednesday was the Network Roundtable conference at Babson College in Boston, continuing the great work since the consortium was established almost two years ago. A little while ago I wrote that organizational network analysis is going mainstream, and the conference indeed showed the maturity of this management discipline. The presentations will be available soon at the Network Roundtable website.
One of the key themes of the event was knowledge worker productivity. Both Tom Davenport of Babson College and Marshall van Alstyne of MIT discussed recent compelling research which shows unequivocally that a person’s social networks is the single most important determinant of both personal career success, and productivity inside the organization. Organizations such as Raytheon, Hill & Knowlton, and Accenture shared some of their recent advances in the field. I spoke about applying networks to sales and relationships, looking from both supplier and client perspectives, tag-teaming with Ted Smith, Senior Vice President at CNET, who went into more depth on the study which I recently completed for them on technology purchase influence networks, and how this has uncovered a whole range of new, actionable insights not possible through more traditional research processes. I also discussed some of the other studies I’m doing on client-supplier connectivity, including current work on a very large technology outsourcing relationship, which shows in detail how a large financial services organization and its primary technology services firm are connected. The day rounded out with some fun and valuable views on networks from Tiziana Casciaro on the work featured in her recent Harvard Business Review article, showing the organizational implications of the people we can recognize so readily, such as the “competent jerk”, and “lovable fool”. It’s great to see the power of the network view of organizations beginning to reach its potential.