Groups and Networks

This blog post relates to my study of CCK.

In the week 5 material for the course, I have watched a presentation by George Siemens relating to groups and networks.  I really enjoyed watching this presentation, as much of the content resonated with me and my context.  I am blogging some of the more fascinating concepts that George highlights in the presentation.

Connectives: autonomy of self (mosaic)

George talks about human nature.  While we like to be social and be part of things larger than ourselves, such as groups, networks and so on, we also have a desire to retain in part, our own sense of self.  To have some level of autonomy, and individualism, and recognition or ownership of our own contributions to the network.  When engaging with networks largely this way, George describes these people as connectives. George has used the analogy of a mosaic, which I like.  What comes to my mind is a patchwork quilt – connectives contributions aren’t always the same (different colours & textures), and don’t always neatly fit together (jaggered edges), yet you still have a whole (patchwork quilt – network).

In networks comprising of mostly connectives, there is greater diversity of views and ideas and greater autonomy.  The network is less integrated and co-ordinated.

Connectives retain a sense of sovereignty within the larger group.

Collectives: subsumption of self (melting pot)

As connectedness grows stronger, the diversity of views and ideas normalise into collective views and ideas, with a loss of autonomy, but become more co-ordinated and integrated.  Co-ordinated in the sense that there is common understanding, common goals and common views.

When engaging in networks in this way, you are known as collectives.

So following on from the patchwork quilt analogy of connectives, a collective is a quilt that is uniform in colour and texture.  Focusing on the colour, it is derived from the colours of each individual contributor, but unlike connective quilts (patchwork), collective quilts converge to the one shade.

Achievement of the complex

George talks about coercion to the norm in group environments.  Connectives who express different views or ideas from the norm of the group are pressured to assimilate to the group views.

This presents challenges in the achievement of complex tasks that require groups to work together.  There needs to be a level of trust, and some level of common understanding and agreed goals amongst the group.  But at the same time, it is important to fulfill the needs of human nature and retain some levels of autonomy and individualism.

I think an excellent example of this balance between connective and collective group engagement is the continent of Europe.  Europe is comprised of many different countries, all with their own cultures and attitudes and yet, Europe can also function as a whole through the European Union.  Take for example, the adoption of the Euro as a continental currency.  There was great benefit to the individual countries of Europe to have a common currency (global strength compared to $US and GBP).  However, if you take a look at the physical currency (ie coins and notes), they share the same size and shape, but the imprints are different – individual.

Innovation is deviation

This would be my favourite idea presented by George.  In a collective, where there are agreed views or ways of doing things, the suggestion of doing something different is often seen as a threat.  To innovate deviates from the norms of the group.  Yet innovation is a crucial part of any group – it is what keeps minds open, and possibilities possible. It also distinguishes individuals and groups from one another.

I see this in my workplace all the time.  My workplace I’m sure is not unique in this regard.  Those who deviate from commonly held beliefs or ways of doing things are shunned, or marginalised.  I have seen this happen to a former colleague.  Yet their contributions (as connectives) are incredibly valuable to the group or network.

Freedom vs. Control

Again, its about context.  The types of connections required to achieve certain outcomes are defined by the context in which they are to occur.  If you need to distinguish yourself from your competition for example, then a certain level of freedom is necessary to operate outside of convention to discover new innovations.  However, if working to a specific goal that must be shared amongst a collective, then a level of control is necessary to ensure the goal is met.

This was a fascinating presentation, and it resonnated with my life experiences considerably.

Damien Clark.

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