We've got 20 members in the community now, and I hope we can start a little bit of discussion to help get to know each other and to help new members too. So here goes:
What is the first thing that someone new to social capital should do to make a difference to the connections and relationships within their organisation?
And I definitely agree with this too - and maturity around understanding connections will be a large part of the broader best fit approach I was referring to in my other response. So if the person is 'mature' what 2-3 practices have you seen work well? And if not, what have you done instead to build that maturity, or to take other actions given that the maturity isn't there?
In my experience you have to connect Social Capital to business outcomes. We were in a highly knowledge intensive business where we sold intellectual capital in the form of licenses for technology. Social capital is a precursor to knowledge sharing, recombination and thus innovation which is in effect intellectual capital. So, Social Capital is the connecting phase between human capital and intellectual capital. All organisational and HR practices supported this basic idea. Any stuff about culture is fairly generic and does not really explain knowledge sharing, evolving narratives or innovation. The main unusual value we had was teamwork and selflessness. This was about networking internally and externally to the company and being selfless in your behaviour towards the company as a whole. These are simply enablers to creating social capital. So, the summary is that it has to be seen a the prime way to get people to work together for business success. Having the right culture is simply one of the things that facilitates this.
Hey Jon, it is interesting that you thought of laziness and it is a very reasonable hypothesis. I was thinking about SC still being an unknown area for most. While social capital is an old concept and network analytics have been around for a while, they are not common in the general population yet. When I talk about social capital, for the most part, I need to explain what I am talking about, and the same is true for ONA. If people don't fully understand what social capital is - they will not invest in it. I do feel the change of winds thou as compared to even three years back.
Before the examples, I want to distinguish between individual practices and HR/managerial practices. I make this distinction as I referred to organizational maturity, and you asked me about individual maturity, and I see these as different questions. At the organizational level examples can be HR practices such as performance management - how do current practices support or hinder collaboration? It can also be about work processes - are they encouraging silos or cross-functional collaboration? In one organization I consulted with processes worked as a chain with group 1 passing to group 2 passing to group 3 - this caused a lot of problems in productivity, errors, workloads, conflicts and more. What we did was built in shorter sub-processes to get a-priori feedback at group 1, solving later conflicts. In addition, we worked to increase awareness of the critical interdependency points which opened communication lines that were closed before. At the individual level, some practices may include 2nd degree influence and effective weaving of the network. One of the managers I worked with indicated that learning how to think in 2nd-degree was one of the most powerful tools he has received as it opened up a range of possibilities he was not aware of before.
I hope these examples help and I would love to learn about what others think or use
If the maturity is not there (at least at the individual level) than I try to use data as an objective basis on which agreement can be reached and insights can be discussed. With that being said, there are been managers I have worked with that did not get the importance of relations. The individual KPIs meant everything and the social, soft side was not well understood (or explained, depending on the perspective :)
I wholeheartedly agree with the idea that making a direct connection to the business is critical for advancing any kind of significant body of work involving others. On the other hand, perhaps the first thing to do is simply to prompt discussions (either 1:1 or as a group) centered around the social capital perspective. Using an image of an trad org chart next to a network diagram can generate alot of interest in a very simple way. Sharing some of the social network science research out there, or mainstream publications about same can generate alot of interest and begin to build readiness/support.