Thinking Networks for a better alignment


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“Adding a new “Network layer” to our thinking process would bring clarity to everything around us and help us uncover the most complex mysteries” from last post: Musing: Think Networks.

We can’t say this enough: One of the most essential ingredients for a better collaboration within an organization isn’t its tools but rather its Culture. 

Culture is critical to any organization’s effectiveness. But more often that we’d like to admit, top management’s conception of culture is rarely aligned with the true underlying subcultures reigning in the organization. Sometimes, groups within the same unit can unconsciously do their best to negate their peers’ hard work. But how do we identify such misalignments?

In their insightful book “driving results through social networks”, R.L. Cross and R.J. Thomas present ONA as the ultimate solution. ONA (= Organizational Network Analysis) consists in x-raying the organization using Social Network theory to get a clear view of the different networks evolving in the shadow of Formal structures.

That surely implies that an organization is a set of informal networks that cannot be seen through traditional lens and tools. But what it essentially states is: Informal networks are a more realistic representation of how the work gets done. So modeling these networks can help diagnose collaboration’s shortcomings and culture misalignments.

We tend to have this reflex: better collaboration = more connectivity. The problem with such approach is that collaboration requires people’s time and drawing a line between every two nodes of a unit’s social graph would cost more than the value it delivers. So the aim would be increasing collaboration at points that would create value and decreasing connectivity where it causes more harm than good -> appropriate connectivity, focused collaboration.

The second problem that leaders tend to overlook is how cultural dynamics can shape collaboration within the organization and how they go beyond the formal structures and value statements. A network perspective gives a clearer view on how culture is distributed throughout the organization. This can help identify diverging values, practices, and goals that are invisibly hindering any collaborative initiatives.

Knowing where the problem lays precisely is often halfway to the answer. Thinking networks when dealing with collaboration helps visualize the key points that need bridging, diagnose the negative cultural carriers on whom cultural change initiative need to focus, locate connectors who need empowerment and recognition and so on. Having a network perspective not only gives a clear view on what’s happening, but also gives decision makers heads up on what should be done next.


Lamia Ben.


Design for Water!


Image courtesy: Denver Water
Disclaimer: This is my humble contribution to The Blog Action Day 2010.

Design is "a way of looking at the world with an eye toward changing it" ~Warren Berger.

For most of us, clean water comes with the twist of a faucet. But for one in six people globally, access to water requires hard work: hours of walking, waiting in line, and heavy lifting.*
Real solutions are needed. Ones that require small resources and yet can have great impact. That's where design comes in play. What design got to do with this you'd say? Designers are essentially problem solvers and I wouldn't put it better than Warren Berger. On his interview with CNN where he explains how design can change the world:
"What design actually can do, it can solve problems on a case-by-case basis around the world. As it does that, it changes the world, because it changes the reality for people wherever the situation is happening.
If design can change water delivery in a certain part of the world, then it changes that part of the world for those people. That's the way design changes the world."

And that's exactly what LifeStraw is trying to do, giving access to clean water to the most needy parts of the world, as stated in Alex Steffen's book: "Worldchanging: A Users Guide for the 21st Century" :


"It's easy to think of clean water in the abstract, but how do you make it possible in places where there is a lot of dangerous contamination? LifeStraw filters contaminated water instantly, so it is clean by the time it touches a person's lips. It could spark a real revolution. There won't be a need to build purification plants, and the LifeStraw will be able to help those in most immediate need of clean water in a way that's cheaper and more instantly effective than any alternative." source


Another much more aesthetic design but not less brilliant is Designer Ju Hyun Lee’s Mohock Smart Umbrella. It's designed to collect water in an embedded collecting vessel that could be used for watering plants for instance.

A small action one could say, but let's not forget that: Small actions X Lots of people = Big Change. Some tips to save water one drop at a time on the WeareWhatweDo campaign's website. worth the check out!



[PDF] Ten Things You Should Know About Water
Wired: Where is the Blue Planet's water
The virual water Project
A great collection of Infographics about Water

*source: UNICEF / WHO Water for Life. Making It Happen. 2005

Lamia Ben

Musing: Think Networks


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Imagine you’ve always seen the world in 2D and then one day, BAM! You can see in 3 dimensions. Wouldn’t that be life changing? Now imagine if there was one more “dimension” to add (rest assured, no quantum theory ahead). Wouldn’t you want to consider it as well?

One dimension is more than game-changing. It will rock your perception of the world. It may demystify complex concepts, uncover hidden causes and give you access to information you’ve never knew existed…What kind of dimension I’m talking about? Make it more a “layer” to add up to one’s conception of the world: Networks.

We are very familiar with the power of social networks, of the www or Facebook’s open Graph. But what most of us don’t know is, researchers found these networks not to be that much unique. The same rules organizing today’s WWW (Believe it or not, there are rules! It’s not as chaotic as it may seem) have been observed in other networks ranging from genetic, neural*, electronic, to social organizations.

In his highly interesting book “ Linked: How Everything Is Connected to Everything Else and What It Means”, Barabasi walks us through the time-line of the network science while using a very non-mathematical smooth style. From the Euler Era, father of the Graph theory, to today’s complex economic models, the ultimate take out from the book is to never rule out the Network thinking

“No matter what organizational level we look at, the same robust and universal laws that govern nature’s webs seem to greet us. The challenge is for economic and network research alike to put these laws into practice”

So, what if everything could be seen as a network? What if adding a new “Network layer” to our thinking process would bring clarity to everything around us and help us uncover the most complex mysteries (the map of life for example)? Let’s think Networks, shall we? What is there to loose anyway? 

*Neural networks are being the subject of a multitude of studies. You may want to check this very intriguing TED Talk by Sebastian Seung: I am my connectom.

Lamia Ben

Enterprise 2.0 reads – September 2010

The back to school season brought interesting discussions with it. Raging from the email ever-lasting replace-or-not-replace question, to the value enterprise can get out of social software. Here are some of the reads I enjoyed and a bunch of goodies I’m sure you wouldn’t want to miss at the end. Have a great October!

On email

Email is the enemy of collaboration?

Reasons for the dominance of email:

– Ubiquity. 

– Integrated calendaring, for planning and scheduling meetings.

– Task and contact management.

Negatives – poorly managed content, the explosion of storage requirements for email, and siloed information.

Email will only be replaced as the primary technology for collaboration when something else gives a unifying interface to the collaboration activities that people do. Only when you can be assured that everyone will be able to interact with everyone else through a new tool with there be widespread adoption, and for this, Laurence argues we need a shared protocol similar to what we have with email ("SMTP"). 


A World Without E-mail: One Man’s Vision of a Social Workplace

A great interview with Mr Hippie 2.0 : Luis Suarez where he lays down his vision of a world with minimal email:


“We will still have e-mail in ten years. I don’t want to kill all e-mail, but I want to help people re-purpose it. We will see traditional tools like e-mail redesigned to be used for what it was originally designed for.”


How-to advice…so that individuals can take steps to reduce the amount of e-mail they receive:

1. Don’t Reply

2. Study Your Inbox

3. Tackle One Area a Week


Email’s Dark Side: 10 Psychology Studies

We're used to hearing about the negative side of the balance-sheet, about email's addictive nature and the unnecessary stress it injects into the modern worker's life, but we downplay these problems because it's so incredibly useful. Now that email is well into middle age (the first emails were sent in 1965), let's take stock of what we know about the darker side of email:

– You check more often than you think

– Email eats a quarter of the working day

– It takes 64 seconds to recover from an email

– Stressed emailers

– …


On Enterprise 2.0


Three questions to answer before starting your Enterprise 2.0 project

For all those who are planning for Enterprise 2.0 initiatives, they might want to give this some further thought. Three important observations:

– Identifying the real barrier

Of course, there are the obvious suspects such as physical barriers, which in general have to do with the geographical distribution of the organisation and its employees. Yet, even in those situations, the physical separation is not always the real barrier.

– Identifying the correct remedy

Depending upon the specific situation, correct remedies often involve changing an existing context.

– Designing the right solution

While in many of the cases mentioned, social technology was part of the solution, in nearly all cases, this was complemented by other types of 'social' interaction approaches, such as face-to-face meetings, formal workshops, getting-together events, which often proved to be the real catalysts for initiating and keeping the momentum.


4 Keys to Enterprise 2.0 Success

Simple wins. That’s a mantra to repeat when considering how to introduce Enterprise 2.0 tools into your organization.  And besides simplicity, here are 3 other things you need to make your Enterprise 2.0 efforts successful:

– A purpose – Enterprise 2.0 won’t succeed if it’s a solution looking for a problem.

– A vision – "Think Big. Start Small. Act Fast."

– A success metric –Have a business purpose in mind and if you know what that purpose is, you’ll know what to measure.


On social Software/networks/search


The Enterprise Value of Social Software

Ignoring social software can be a mistake. Applied against specific operating problems, social software can enable companies to respond efficiently to changing demands. It can provide the platform for scaling and amplifying connections and tapping into the knowledge flows within a company. The potential result: better meeting customer needs, increasing the knowledge of participants and sustained performance improvement.

Social software has the potential to drive real value for companies through all three levels of pull described in our book.

– Social software connects us more easily to the resources we need

– Social software amplifies connections, increasing the company's opportunities for serendipity

– Social software provides a platform to achieve sustained performance improvement


Mining social networks: Untangling the social web

Of course, companies have long mined their data to improve sales and productivity. But broadening data mining to include analysis of social networks makes new things possible.

Where is network analysis headed? The next step beyond mapping influence between individuals is to map the influences between larger segments of society.

Once… societal networks of influence can be accurately mapped, they can be used to promote the spread of particular ideas—those that support stability and democracy, for example.



Search Takes a Social Turn

On Google and other search engines, searches for things like hotels or electronics can turn up a lot of online clutter and spam. Instead, many people informally poll their friends for recommendations, often through social networks like Facebook and Twitter.

“Exposing higher-quality recommendations in more obvious and prominent ways would improve the health of the system”

Hunch, a start-up based in New York, wants to go beyond cataloging the places and products for which your friends have already expressed affection. With some complex software, it tries to use that information to predict what other things you might like, even if nobody you know has ever offered an opinion on those things before.

The friend trend, where likes matter more than links, could eventually present a significant challenge to Google, which has struggled to create appealing social services.



Great resources for understanding the social workplace

A framework for the social enterprise

Classifying Enterprise 2.0 use cases 

Social Media case studies 


Lamia Ben

Sunday Fun: Saving the planet, one action at a time


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Next Sunday – 10/10/10 – is the "Global Work Party". A celebration where people will put up solar panels, dig community gardens–and send a strong message to our leaders: 'If we can get to work on solutions to the climate crisis, so can you.'

Why 350? 

I'm being part of a fun action in Rabat. We'll be planting trees and raising awareness in over 20 schools. If you're interested in joining us, please check our fan page on Facebook or contact me here or on my twitter.

There is also an action in Casablanca called : A Gloden Wave. For more details, here is their Event page.

I'll leave you with this cool video that encompasses the whole spirit of the Global Work Party in a rather artsy way. You can find more details on the campaign on

Have a great Sunday!

Lamia Ben.