Lack of outside information, and dense cohesion within the network, removes all possibility for new ideas and innovations. We see this in isolated rural communities that are resistant to change, or Nodes with many direct connections that quickly disperse information; Nodes that connect otherwise disconnected parts of the network – they act as liaisons; Nodes that connect two or more clusters – they act as bridges between groups. We see this in isolated rural communities that are resistant to change, or in a classic “old boy network”. Yet, the dense connections, and high degree of commonality forms good work groups – clusters of people who can work together smoothly.
Guanxi is defined by Mei- hui (1994) as a gift economy, but it is much more. Luo (1997) say, “The Chinese word Guanxi refers to the concept of drawing on connections in order to secure favors in personal relations. It is an intimate and pervasive relational network in which Chinese culture energetically, subtly, and imaginatively engage” (p. 2). But for our purposes perhaps Bell’s (2000) definition is most helpful. He defines Guanxi as more than connections; it is a “mechanism by which individuals are able to achieve personal, family or business objectives. Bell’s definition focuses on a process by which we achieve collective goals.
A video exploring small world networks in the human world and throughout nature.
In this video Cesar Hidalgo at MIT asks intriguing questions about how social and economic systems interact. He sees networks as holding the knowledge and know-how necessary to ‘crystallise’ information into the things we use every day. The capacity of a network to hold this sort of knowledge and know-how is thus for him directly linked to economic activity. It helps explain how economic growth is variable and differs from place to place. It says that a theory of economics that doesn’t take into account the social complexity of society and its networks is incomplete. This 20 minute address at the RSA is a rapid tour through Cesar’s work. It is expanded in more depth in his book ‘Why information grows’. If you are exploring how social networks relate to economic activity this is well worth a look.
One of the curious things about social networks is the way that some messages, pictures, or ideas can spread like wildfire while others that seem just as catchy or interesting barely register at all. The content itself cannot be the source of this difference. Instead, there must be some property of the network that changes to allow some ideas to spread but not others.
The biologist Deborah Gordon has uncovered how ant colonies search efficiently without central organization, an insight that might improve computer networks.
Change begins and ends with relationships, and a big part of systems change is rewiring and bringing greater depth (trust) to existing patterns of relationships.