Review: The Hidden Power of Social Networks–Understanding How Work Really Gets Done in Organizations

5 Star, Best Practices in Management, Information Society, Intelligence (Collective & Quantum), Intelligence (Commercial)

Hidden PowerOutstanding Overview for CEOs and MBAs going into HR, August 1, 2008

Robert L. Cross

Ben Gilad, one of the top five business intelligence gurus that I know, teaches us that CEO information is invariably filtered, late, incomplete, and/or subjective, lacking in analytic rigor (and in my own experience, based on the easy 2% of the information the subordinates can access easily). CEOs have to not only create their own internal “organizational intelligence” unit, they have to read for themselves–reading and thinking cannot be delegated.

This is a great book, an essential reference for CEOs who are willing to open their minds and consider the possibility that the Weberian model of bureaucracy as knowledge-hoarding and information pigeon-holing is pathologically out of touch with the the diversity and pace of the modern world.

I do not agree with those that dismiss this book as being for consultants. It is an easy to read, well-organized, and ably-ducumented offering (including appendices with specific questions for exploration, and before and after charts).

I am loading a chart above of the four quadrants of knowledge, information, and intelligence that I have been exploring since the 1990’s.

1. Most organizations are barely familiar with Quadrant I (Knowledge Management or data mining or making the most of what we already know.

2. A few are in Phase I of Quadrant II, on levering social networks both internally and externally–the Business Week cover story of 20 June 2005 on “The Power of Us” is a superb starting point for that one.

3. A handful of us have been focusing on Quadrant III since the 1990’s, and Peter Drucker, writing in Forbes ASAP on 28 August 1998 said it best: “We have spent 50 years focusing on the T in IT, we should spend the next 50 years focusing on the I in IT.”

4. Finally, also the seminal work was written in 1967 (Organizational Intelligence (Knowledge and Policy in Government and Industry), most organizations, and the US Government and United Nations in particular, are deaf, dumb, and blind in Quadrant IV, Organizational Intelligence.

I like this book. It is not a cookie-cutter book, it is a serious stepping stone for anyone wanting to think about the move away from pyramidal organizations and toward ever-expanding circular organizations.

Other books in this vein recommended for CEOs (see also my Leadership list):
The Battle for the Soul of Capitalism
Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution
The Knowledge Executive
The exemplar: The exemplary performer in the age of productivity
Early Warning: Using Competitive Intelligence to Anticipate Market Shifts, Control Risk, and Create Powerful Strategies
Fog Facts: Searching for Truth in the Land of Spin
The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom
Society’s Breakthrough!: Releasing Essential Wisdom and Virtue in All the People
Building a Knowledge-Driven Organization

I also recommend the six books I have published, espeically the ones on public intelligence and collective intelligence and on information operations, and books on the general topic of group gtenius, wisdom of the crowds, smart mobs, and so on.