Filtering With Your Network

In yesterday’s post on Personal Aggregate, Filter & Connect Strategies, I didn’t have room for one key point: one of the key filters to use is your network. When he was in Brisbane last month, George Siemans gave a talk with an example that illustrated this perfectly.

For the past couple of years, he has run a course on Connectivism with Stephen Downes. Here is the definition of connectivism from Downes:

At its heart, connectivism is the thesis that knowledge is distributed across a network of connections, and therefore that learning consists of the ability to construct and traverse those networks.

As I understand it, one of the points of the course is to present students with so much data that they can’t possibly process or understand all of it as individuals. This forces them to create networks to build data-gathering and sense-making networks in order to succeed. There are more details about networks, connectivism and the course in this excellent presentation from Downes (the presentation also discusses Downes’ framework for building knowledge within complex networks, which consists of Aggregate – Remix – Repurpose – Feed Forward).

So as individuals, our network is part of our filtering system. This also points out how the three processes – aggregating, filtering and connecting – interact with each other. In the example of my twitter feed, I discussed this as part of my aggregation strategy. But at the same time, I’m actually counting on people within my network to filter. They’re not sending every little thing that they run across into their twitter streams – they are selecting.

This same process happens as part of the aggregate, filter and connect process for organisations. We can use our networks as aggregating/filtering tools. This is what is happening in customer-led innovation, crowd-sourcing and open innovation. We use our network to increase the flow of ideas into our organisation (aggregate), and we also count on our network to decide which things they run across might be important (filter).

And just as for individuals, these processes don’t work well for firms either unless they are good at all three steps. If you only aggregate, you get overwhelmed with ideas. You need some form of selection process. Both forms of connecting are important too. You must be able to connect ideas in novel ways – this is one of the central skills in innovation. If you’re not generating and executing your own innovative ideas, you run into several problems. Open innovation won’t work, because you’re not bringing anything of value to the table – so why would anyone want to partner with you? Customer-led innovation and crowdsourcing won’t work either, because the skills need to tell which ideas are worth pursuing – your filtering is worse if you’re bad at connecting ideas.

Outbound connecting is also critical – this is how we get ideas to spread. In the case of firms, getting ideas to spread is a critical part of innovatgion diffusion. This is also a network function. Using our networks to help with filtering is essential – both for individuals and for firms.

This is one of the reasons that we are doing research on networks. Knowledge creation within firms is also a network function. John and I recently made a video to use to explain network analysis and our main research project to people that are participating in our studies. Because many of them are in remote locations, we can’t visit everyone. And we figured that showing them a video might help them feel more of a connection with us than simply sending them a document with the same information. Take a look at this, and keep in mind the value of your network in executing aggregate, filter and connect strategies:

UQBS Innovation Networks in Project-Based Firms Information Video from Tim Kastelle on Vimeo.

Student and teacher of innovation - University of Queensland Business School - links to academic papers, twitter, and so on can be found here.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.