As a kid, I loved maps. I would sit for hours on end quietly paging through an atlas. One of my favorites became an atlas of natural resources through which I learned, for example, where the oil producing areas were in the US. I still find such maps fascinating. The map above, for example, shows how one natural resource is mostly located in large clusters throughout the country, rather than in small pockets.
Nicholas Christakis also has some incredibly interesting maps, but they don’t show countries. Instead they show social networks with clusters of different properties. In one example, he shows that people’s emotions spread not beyond their closest friends and potentially several layers out. So if I am a ray of sunshine today, the people around me might be happier and it may spread to people around them as well
So how can an organization use this? One methodology that supports this very well is called appreciative inquiry (AI). Cooperrider and Whitney1 explain a simple process for AI. It starts by asking questions, such as “’describe a high-point experience in your organization, a time when you have been most alive and engaged’” to generate positive stories. Those stories are then shared and used to create positive visions for the future of an organization. As these stories get passed on, the hope is that empowerment goes up for individuals and for larger clusters of people in order to drive change.
This certainly has an impact internally within companies, but the concept can also be used externally. For example, GoPro follows publishes sharable content with great stories that have been collected from their customers. This is a great sales tool as it shows people ideas for how they can use the products based on what others have done.
The next question is, can you tell me about a time where you grew your network with a positive message? If not, what are you waiting for?