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So people learned from the angels of God how to build bridges, and therefore, after fountains, the greatest blessing is to build a bridge and the greatest sin to interfere with one. – Ivo Andric

Our first two topics in this 12 part series were Pattern Recognition and Environmental Scanning, both practices for enhancing the opportunity to create meaning from information and to assist in decision making. The next topic looks at how others can contribute to this process.

::Network Weaving::

The above quote was used by Lee Bryant during his recent presentation at the Social Business Edge conference, and I thought it fit in well with this concept.  One of the main topics we have been covering is the idea of breaking down silos – between fields, between organizational departments, between people, and even more deeply, between our own ideas about the values that defines us and who we really are – so the analogy of building bridges seems appropriate.

As I’ve been exploring how to build relationships online and create an environment where trust can be built, I naturally started introducing people from different communities to each other in hopes they could benefit from each other’s knowledge, wisdom, and experience. I noticed that different disciplines are having the same conversation, just packaged in the jargon of their field. What if we could cross-pollinate these conversations, allowing for new ideas to emerge?

This activity has been called “network weaving” on June Holley’s blog, Network Weaver. (There’s a wealth of information there on how to build online networks and create thrivable communities.) She defines the term as follows:

A Network Weaver is someone who is aware of the networks around them and explicitly works to make them healthier (more inclusive, bridging divides). Network Weavers do this by connecting people strategically where there’s potential for mutual benefit, helping people identify their passions, and serving as a catalyst for self-organizing groups.

June (@juneholley) and a few other amazing women I’ve started to follow (Jean Russell @NurtureGirl, Christine Egger @CDEgger) have been working on a google doc that explores ways to facilitate network weaving behavior, geared towards this weekend’s Wisdom 2.0 Conference.  June is also working on a Network Weaving Handbook, which I’m looking forward to reading. The Table of Contents sneak preview is available here.

Though the activity seems simple enough, I see it as an essential skill as we move forward to a more effective and collaborative society. It’s not just about being extroverted and great at making introductions, though. It’s about raising your awareness of others, learning how to identity their strengths and gifts, and knowing who they should know to amplify their abilities and potential contributions.

I started to outline this idea in Framework for a Strengths-based Society, and I think that a prerequisite for effective network weaving starts with thinking about people (and ourselves) not in terms of predefined roles or resumes, but by what we’re really about. This is often opaque – a mix of things like inherent qualities, tacit knowledge, and the values we adhere to, which are revealed by our actions and interactions.

As I’ve dug deeper into exploring those things about myself, it seems I’m able to more quickly identify them in others. It makes network weaving actually exhilarating. I feel I’m of more value to others now, because I have a sense of who they could team up with to mobilize their ideas.

As more of us adopt this practice, aligning people with different strengths and skills who all share a similar vision, what might happen? Could it ignite a snowball effect, accelerating the rate of positive change and making an impact in the world?


image from wikimedia commons