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The Power of Networks

What can a network learn that an individual cannot?

We asked this question because we believe that society is on the verge of an unprecedented era of learning. Humanity has always been hard-wired to accumulate knowledge, but while there have been pockets of accelerated learning over the course of history, nothing can compare to the potential of digital networks (both social and business) combined with data analytics.

“In my mind, the answer is just about anything,” says @danb. “In my most optimistic moments, I’m convinced that everything is knowable, provided we can collect and analyze the right data. But the human mind is not powerful enough to sift through the countless variables. Heck, I can’t even remember where I put my wallet half the time. So what can a network learn? How about predicting the future?”

Today’s networks include both business and social interactions, making possible new types of insight and intelligence. Trends and patterns that could never be detected by human intelligence alone can be made visible in a network. Businesses can reconfigure suppliers and partners and even target new markets faster and more efficiently than ever before. But it’s not just the breadth of new insight that makes networks so powerful. It’s also accuracy, objectivity, and transparency, all of which increase the value of the information.

“There is value in the sum of organizations, as opposed to the value of the individual organization,” says @legweak85. “The value of anything, when corrected through the checks and balances of a network defeats biases and incorrect assessments.”

Sound Off Join the conversation around each of the questions in this series:

Optimizing Resources Amid Increasing Scarcity
The Power of Networks
Insight-Driven Innovation
Customer Centricity
Unlocking Human Potential

Of course, not all networks are created equal. And not all networks are designed to yield great insight. Which means that the art and science of developing powerful, purposeful networks that connect the right people, machines, and organizations is becoming a major competitive differentiator in today’s business landscape. Those who master these capabilities will offer the world something of value.

“It depends completely on the individuals that form a network or are key members of different organizations,” explains @Wilhelm Woess. “When the most interesting individuals associate with a network, all those who contribute with their own knowledge as humble (or big) it might be, share with others, gain from others’ interesting perspectives and knowledge. But some networks attract only weak knowledge and one-sided prejudice, or plain opinion without much explanation or insight. High quality journalism is a good example how important and indispensable good networks of the right people are.”

We totally agree.

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