Saturday, June 14, 2008

Social Networks or Learning Networks?

Over the last month I set up two social networks. This has been a tremendous learning experience for me as I had previously never really been involved in one. The first social network is for the journal for which I am editor-in-chief (HRM, the Journal). It has been about four weeks since we started the group, and we now have over 600 people on the network. The second one is for friends of the Leadership Pulse, which is a study of leaders I've been running since 2003 ( This one has less participants (over 70) due to the fact that it 'younger.'

One of the most interesting learnings for me has come from the groups set up by the HRM social network. These groups sprouted up from the interests of the members. There is not one group on what I would call "traditional HRM." No one set up a group to study selection, training, compensation, or benefits.

Some of the topics are: HRM and sustainability, HR in China, in India, in Arab/Islam countries; Iberoamerican HRM, HR and OD convergence, HR and social networks, qualitative research and meta analysis in HRM, HRM in high tech and knowledge-intensive industries, and the list goes on.

This, to me, is good news. From this social network, I see emerging more excitement in where HRM is going than in all of my reading in the journals or in magazines, newspapers, etc. The people working in HRM are not breaking it down into pieces and studying the various tactical components; instead, they are looking at how HRM works in the dynamically changing, global world in which we live and work. They are not arguing over whether their work is micro, macro or somewhere in between, but they are doing work that will have high impact in the real world, looking at HRM as an overall system or process and how it can work better in new environments or to solve bigger problems.

These two networks were not set up to be 'social' really; my goal was for them to be learning networks. I thought they would be a great source for connecting people from around the world to share best practices, exchange ideas, and more. That does seem to be happening.

Maybe even more important, however, the networks seem to be an incredible source of research data. We are learning what's really important by 'listening.'

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Applying technology to provide easy access for societal dialog has the promise of peer-to-peer co-creation of knowledge and rapid consensus solution-building. Today's technology holds the promise of quickly connecting problem solvers with problems, converting actionable knowledge into value that transforms the world.

Back in October 1971, an engineer (who I knew when we both went to a small high school in Upstate New York during the late 1950s) named Ray Tomlinson chose the '@' symbol for email addresses and wrote software to send the first network email. At the time, it must not have seemed very important because Ray didn't bother to save that first message or even record the exact date. Ray Tomlinson has been called the father of email because he invented the software that allowed messages to be sent between computers. Ray made it possible to swap messages between machines in different locations; between universities, across continents, and oceans. At the time, he was working for Boston-based Bolt, Beranek and Newman, which was helping to develop Arpanet, the forerunner of the modern Internet.

Now, over thirty years later email messages are a large part of our lives in today's network society and I bet you can't remember the first e-mail message you ever sent either?

While email and the Internet have "changed everything" in the way we work and communicate, many are finding that reading and answering email messages can consume too much time; time we would rather spend doing something else.

Wouldn't it be great if we could harness the good parts of email communication and do away with the bad parts?

Practicing the Law of Reciprocity

Perhaps, we can by being selective as to who we let into our networks while retaining the ability of instantly collaborating with many people across time zones and borders. The foundation of network technology is how the people we connect with think about the collaboration process. Social networks that are built on the "law of reciprocity" flourish. Those networks that violate the law of reciprocity die. So what is the law of reciprocity and how can you use it in your personal and business lives?

"One of the most potent of the weapons of influence around us is the rule for reciprocation. The rule says that we should try to repay, in kind, what another person has provided us." Robert B. Cialdini, author of The Psychology of Persuasion (William Morrow, 1993)

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