Want to Make Change? Go for Density!

The phrase “change agent” was hot a while back. It conjured up a person who could inspire others to alter less than optimal behavior patterns. Jack Welch and Steve Jobs come to mind as prototypes.

But we have not been very successful in reproducing what the masters of the game were able to do. Why not? What is missing? It may be that change agents as ego driven anti-social leaders do not connect with groups as needed. A person like Jobs might have been successful despite himself.

So what is needed? Consider this (from Giga)

the research of Damon Centola at MIT (sows) that behavioral change is more likely to propagate in dense social networks.

In other words, change agents need to focus on increasing the density of the social networks that they seek to change.

How do you do that? There are several characteristics of highly dense social networks worth considering (1) the number of connections per person and (2) the overlapping nature of connections.

This is worth thinking about because we tend to think of networking in terms of scalability. Networks that scale seem to be more successful than those that do not. But adding scale does not necessarily increase density.

Something worth thinking about. As you think, consider the impact on global team building

One basic difference between global teams that work and those that don’t lies in the level of social distance—the degree of emotional connection among team members. When people on a team all work in the same place, the level of social distance is usually low. Even if they come from different backgrounds, people can interact formally and informally, align, and build trust. They arrive at a common understanding of what certain behaviors mean, and they feel close and congenial, which fosters good teamwork. Coworkers who are geographically separated, however, can’t easily connect and align, so they experience high levels of social distance and struggle to develop effective interactions. Mitigating social distance therefore becomes the primary management challenge for the global team leader.

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