RE: [ona-prac] SNA/ONA: for researchers or practitioners?
Hi Laurie –
Thanks again for raising and pursuing this key issue.
I was looking for something that could create a step change in the adoption rate of SNA by business.
Here forthwith are some practical approaches to SNA pull-thru. They have created uplift for most of the new network business concepts here in Silicon Valley.
IMO, taking an entrepreneurial approach to SNA is the best way to create the tipping point we want. It is important to firewall the authentic network science scholarship. Same for the malignant narcissism masquerading as network ‘thought leadership.’ Quarantine the pseudo-science network quacks too.
Simply behave as a SNA entrepreneur.
The prevailing model is Lean Startup. here are the key principles.
The foundation is radical customer interaction. (Gasp!). The first rule is to get-out-of-the-building and in-front of customers. Forget about talks, conferences, papers and all the trappings of consulting. In Lean these are ‘waste.’ Focus on conducting perpetual, face-2-face conversations w/customers. That’s the technique. Ta-da!
Another component is the minimally viable product. Let’s face it ONA-Prac, 90% of what is offered in lofty network analytics today by the boutique charlatans is useless. It is overweight, pedantic hubris. It produces no customer benefit. Thus, it is why these network snake-oil companies fail – no customers. That’s all. Sorry you had to hear it from me sports fans, but it is true. L
Bottom line is two things matter to SNA startups: business talent and customers.
Here is the Lean Startup global Meetup network.
Basically, they have gone from zero to 21,000 members in the last 18 months. BTW, Interesting to see how network diffusion of a legitimate concept community really works. You may like the ‘Timeline Animation’ above. My role was as an early pioneer/advocate/evangelist and am very active locally as a Leanist.
Also, here are some germane mandates from a good colleague and Silicon Valley’s most recently minted social graph billionaire (May 2011)…
Here are Reid Hoffman's top mandates for entrepreneurs:
1. Be disruptive. Ask yourself: "Is this massive and different? It's got to be ten-times different. It's got to be something that changes an industry." Hoffman uses Skype as an example, calling it a disruptive company because, "it removes these very expensive cross barrier phone charges."
2. Aim big. You'll probably wind up plowing the same amount of time into a small business as you will a big one. So, don't be intimidated by your own big ideas, as there are multiple ways of realizing them.
3. Grow your network. Your network includes investors, advisers, employees and customers. With a broad network, you have the ability to make important, global-sized changes.
4. Plan for better or worse. Part of planning is that you might come across something you weren't expecting and you pivot. And if something doesn't work, you must ask yourself: "What is my Plan B?"
5. Maintain flexible persistence. On one hand, the goal is to have a vision and be persistent. On the other hand, flexibility and being able to change based on what your customers want is paramount. "The art is knowing when to be persistent and when to be flexible and how to blend them."
6. Launch early. "Unless you're Steve Jobs, you're most likely partially wrong about what your theory was." So launch early and often. Launching early attracts customer engagement, and it's the customer who's going to tell you what's wrong so you can correct it.
7. Seek honesty. You need friends who will tell you that you have an ugly baby. Keep your aspirations high, but don't drink your own Kool-Aid -- all the while leveraging the advice of your friends.
8. Be everywhere. It's important to have a great idea for a product, but it's downright vital to have a wide distribution of it. "You can have a kickass product, but if it doesn't get to millions of people, it's irrelevant."
9. Culture is key. You must get hiring right the first time. While experience is impressive, you'll need people who can adapt and thrive amid volatility -- especially in the beginning.
10. Break these rules. The rules of entrepreneurship are not laws of nature. You can break them. What's more, don't listen to all of the rules all of the time.
The frustration with network didacticism and turgid theory is our own ‘ugly baby syndrome.’
Yes, the message here is to approach SNA like a business (double gasp!), notably a startup business. Focus on business talent (not loopy theories) and customers. IMO, this is the only way to get a “step change in the adoption rate of SNA by business.”
Bonne chance à tous…
Sorry for the long post but....I guess when I wrote the original post I was looking for something that could create a step change in the adoption rate of SNA by business. Education and coaching of business decision makers is clearly critical and I'm sure all practitioners on this list and others do this at every opportunity. But the fact remains that the pace of adoption is still frustratingly slow. I note Morten's arguments for keeping the links to the science. I'm not suggesting that clients may not be interested in the underlying science and theories. In fact that is often how we get jobs. My point is that there are not enough of these inquisitive early adopters to get us up the growth curve....as illustrated by the Gartner hype cycle John provided.
As to business case studies ...just a personal reflection....most of you will know of the roundtable that Rob Cross has been running for several years now. Rob has been very successful in engaging mainstream businesses to join this roundtable and collaborate as a 'community' in sharing experiences in applying SNA. Andrew Parker often ran Ucinet tutorials as part of these sessions. The company myself and my business partner used to work for was an enthusiastic member ... and not just because Rob's wife worked there :) We conducted some joint projects (internal and external) and I attended a session in Boston and was particularly impressed by the number and nature of the organisations that had paid to join up. On reflection however, the people at the workshops were early adopters (including us). I don't believe the diffusion is happening fast enough yet, despite the abundance of compelling case studies. Since we left 5 years ago, I doubt that my old company has conducted a single SNA study...though I'd be delighted to be proven wrong. This experience has contributed to my views about complexity of tools. The Roundtable people and many others are often introduced to SNA through Ucinet and Netdraw. These are tools designed for academics, not practitioners. It would have been like starting a six sigma green belt (is that the lowest?) session by demonstrating the intricacies of SAS or SPSS.
I note Valdis' post about his performance database, relating patterns with performance. We have done something similar having been doing SNA projects for over a decade now .... though I'm sure our data base is smaller than Valdis'...he's been doing it for much longer! Maybe this is part of the answer. I know the APQC and other benchmarking organisations have benefited from this. Perhaps we need to share our designs and come up with one that we can leverage more broadly.
Finally to Matts comments, who knows my position on this as seeing BPM as the 'enemy'.... or more accurately BPM proponents who push the approach beyond its capabilities. I'd like to think that the social software movement has helped our case here as business decision-makers struggle with their @home and @work personas. There was a time when PCs were only an @home tool! But I am fearful that entrained 'top down' thinking as noted by Joshua Letourneau's comment on the Linkedin SNAP group; which I abstract here:
' In North America, 99% of those working for the larger Mgmt Consulting firms graduate from the typical white-box, top-20 Business School (which is largely driven by socio-economics here in the U.S.) These programs emphasize elements (formal, hierarchical, linear processes and procedures, causality, etc.) that are largely debunked by SNA'
Maybe this is back to John Maloney's comment about getting to the students and MBA programmes.....let's hope its no that hard!