Chairman Ed

Connecting people, ideas and processes

Tag Archives: network organizations

24X7 Global Zoom Conversations?

Jamien of has been doing 24 hour Zoom conversations on Fridays for several months to discuss environmental and food issues.

A comment he made in an email yesterday made me wonder.

Will 24X7 global Zoom conversations be how CNN evolves?

Could 24X7 conversations about solving global problems replace 24X7 announcements of global problems?

Network Organization Concepts and Tools

I am continuously looking for information that gives some indication of the development of tools and concepts related to new organizational forms, particularly network organizations.

I recently came across the TED video of a presentation by John Maeda, the president of Rhode Island School of Design. Although the video makes a number of interesting points about art, creativity and technology, two particular items related to network organization stood out for me.

His two column list from the video, shown below, contrasts two styles of leadership, Authoritative and Creative. For me, the list also reflects two styles of organization, hierarchical and network. This list is about the person and a similar list I produced in this earlier entry of mine contrasts characteristics of the organizational form.

Authoritative Leader Creative Leader
Symbol of Authority
More Sticks
Linear Path
Plan and Execute: Launching with 1.0
Sustaining Order
Yes or No (clear)
Literal in Tone
Concerned with Being Right
Think like a General or Conductor
Delegates Actions
Closed System
Close the Ranks
Follows the Manual
Loves to Avoid Mistakes
Orchestra Model
Community in Harmony
Wants to be Right
Open to Limited Feedback
Your Opinion Matters
Symbol of Inspiration
More Carrots
Nonlinear Path
Iterate and Do: Living in Beta
Taking Risks
Maybe (comfort with ambiguity)
Metaphorical in Tone
Concerned with Being Real
Think like an Artist or Designer
Hands-On Driven
Open System
Improvises when Appropriate
Loves to Learn from Mistakes
Jazz Ensemble
Community in Conversation
Hopes to be Right
Open to Unlimited Critique
What are You Really Thinking?

In the TED video at about 12 minutes, John Maeda demonstrates a software tool that provides ways to make the network of relationships within an organization apparent. It appears to be an interesting combination of network organization diagram and functions and skills that can be hidden or made visible based on the view you desire.

He seems to be realizing that organizational authority is changing, and he is experimenting with ways to put these realizations into practice. But, he is still trapped by the restrictions of the hierarchical organization he heads and all of the behaviors that are expected of him in his traditional role. He is advancing the cause of this new way of working, and organizational form, and he is also making it obvious that there is a long way to go before we understand the tools and behaviors necessary to fully benefit from network organizations.

Have you seen any similar information that illustrates concepts or tools related to network organizations?

Hybrid Organizations – Part Hierarch, Part Network

It has been my observation that when society transitions from one set of concepts to another we often use hybrid, or bridging, concepts to help us in that transition. For example, we currently are talking about e-books, which are a hybrid of something old, “books”, and something new, “electronic”. We know we’re inventing something new here, but we don’t know what it is going to look like yet.


What I’m calling a hybrid organization is a similar bridging concept, like my hybrid car. My hybrid car is a step toward an electric/electronic vehicle – an e-vehicle. How, and if, we get to fully electric vehicles and the  infrastructure necessary to support them is still undefined, but many people are bringing forth their ideas and products as steps to create a more concrete definition.


I believe we are in a similar process in terms of creating network organizations. Many people are working on the Internet tools that can become the infrastructure for supporting network relationships and organizations. Social networks are a part of this process.


One of my beliefs about the value of a network organization over a hierarchy is that it can scale to larger size. In an era of increasing globalization we will need organizations of sufficient size to span the globe and potentially have millions of people involved in the organization. Hierarchies with their need to add additional levels as they increase in size become less responsive, because things have to move through channels or chain of command, which continues to lengthen.  Go back to my Shaky Pyramid post and think about what that diagram looks like as you keep on adding more layers.


In terms of scaling think about Facebook. It currently handles something in excess of 750 million users. To support all those users it has about 2000 staff members, or one staff member for each 375,000 users. Now imagine that every one of those users was part of the same organization and not simply using the system for chitchat. What if instead of Facebook it was “No Book University” with a global learning community of 750 million people?


Perhaps in that light, we could see Facebook as a hybrid organization, a small hierarchy that creates and manages the infrastructure and a very large network organization of learners, facilitators and teachers. Can you imagine that scale of a learning organization with these tools? Now try imagining what the organization chart would look like for a hierarchical organization that might have that same scale. Do you think it’s possible for a hierarchy to function at that scale?

From Owner Managers to Networks

How the corporation evolved - March 3, 1986

This diagram is from Business Week magazine. It is another illustration of organizational evolution, here with the focus on the Corporation. This diagram predates the time when the Internet began to get major public attention around 1994. It illustrates how computer technology enables network organizational forms.

Organizational Forms Over Human History

Network Form Enabled and Needed in the Information Age

Illustration from Jeff and Jessica's Book Cited in Earlier Post

Here is one view of how organizational forms developed over human history. The “information age” both enables and requires the network organization as a new form. It enables it because of the continuing evolution of the Internet and the tools that are being developed for coordination and collaboration. It requires it because knowledge must be used where ever it is found in an organization, and it cannot be assumed only to be located where the organization chart says it should be.

Opening Thoughts from Chairman Ed

First some thoughts about writing this blog and then about topics to be explored –

I approach this with a series of trepidations. Will anyone ever read any of this? How can I attract people to read, and perhaps more importantly, to comment? How much effort and energy will this take? Can I find that energy among the other demands of my life? And, can it help me generate new personal energy through connections with other people and with opportunities to create concepts, connections and concrete actions that are socially beneficial.

As a former debater in high school and college, I enjoy exploring possibilities from multiple angles to see which holds the most truth and opportunity. As an entrepreneur, I enjoy the process of moving from an idea to action. When I have done these things previously, it was in a much more confined space than the breath of the Internet. Writing here feels like talking into the darkness, while wondering if someone will turn on the lights and how my thoughts will look in the brightness of daylight.

So, with my trepidations laid out in front of you, here are some of the topics I plan to write about now and potentially much further into the future.

Network Organizations, including the characteristics of this form of organization and the infrastructure that the Internet continues to evolve to support this type of organizational process.

Hybrid Organizations, as interim steps to network forms, as hybrid cars are interim steps toward electric vehicles.

Adult Learning, and new opportunities to connect people around the globe so that they can learn with, and from, each other.

Intentional Family, as social supports when government safety nets are being challenged in terms of their sustainability.

Intimacy, sexuality and personal growth, as the spice to attract an audience, and because they are important parts of our humanity.

And, there is even the possibility some threads will weave these topics together.

I hope I have piqued your curiosity enough to have you bookmark this link or click on an RSS feed. And, I would sincerely appreciate it, if you take a moment to make a comment or ask a question.

Thanks – Chairman Ed