How to Navigate Organizational Social Networks

Back in 2009 I went to AYE (Amplify Your Effectiveness), a conference hosted by Jerry Weinberg, Steve Smith, Esther Derby, Don Gray, and Johanna Rothman. This conference was built around the Satir model, systems thinking, coaching, and MBTI (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator). While some groan at the mere sight of MBTI, it doesn’t pretend to be science, and it’s a tool for learning about yourself so you can understand how you respond to things that happen around you.

I saw people walking around with their nametags and many had these weird four letters, such as ESTJ, INTJ, and more, on them. I asked Don what those meant so he gave me a book called What Type am I? by Renee Baron.

Of course, when my letters turned out to be INTP, my response was, “OH! I’m not an antisocial weirdo, I’m just introverted!”

Now here we are, eight-or-so years later, and I know better. I’ve taken the assessment twice more since then and I flop between INTP and ISTP. My preference for introversion is usually around 70 percent, which is odd because a few people have called me an “epic bridge builder” in organizations. While personal socialization has always been a challenge, socializing in a work environment has always come naturally to me.

This leads me to this week’s Happy Melly Challenge and I’d like to say I was excited to host it, but I really volunteered to do it because it scared the shit out of me.

Socializing is one of Jurgen Appelo’s 12-steps to happiness, and we underestimate how important it is when it comes to influencing change in our organizations. Perhaps my favourite example comes from Xerox.

The short version is that in the 1970s, their PARC research lab, headed by John Seely Brown, arguably invented the mouse, and made the laptop economically viable. Xerox didn’t profit from these products because, in his words, John failed to build up enough social capital with his peers who controlled the big budgets and made money for the company.

PARC had the best, brightest, and most innovative employees, had a budget, and a separate research facility, but he didn’t have the social capital to make these products a reality.

This week’s challenge is about how to navigate the social networks at work, and how to focus on building relationships with those who have the influence to make positive change.

Each day, on this post, there will a short video challenge for you. The first three people who complete one of the challenges will win a 1-year membership to Happy Melly!

Monday’s Challenge Video

Monday’s socialization challenge!

Tuesday’s Challenge Video

Find out something neat about your co-workers!

Final Challenge Video

REmind yourself to socialize!

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  1. A great post!
    I work in Asia, the ‘social-clubs’ I found are:
    – Weekend bikers: some C-levels, some foreigners and a few locals
    – Board games: geeks: as you can imagine
    – The company also sponsors events, such as a weekend of rice-planting volunteer work, which is a chance to do cross-department bonding.

    In previous jobs (if France) we had:
    – Again, board games, where beside losing a lot we got to get closer to our chief architect and the IT department
    – Brown Bag Lunches, which according to the subject attracted different profiles
    – Thursday night bar (not a big fan)
    – Poker night, which always attracted new people.

    A great community generator, though was an open-space event, where communities were formed, such as basketball and movie-club as well as the Agile-minded community. this one made positive influencers come together!

    Thanks for the reminder, I’ll take my socializing more seriously, promise!

    Comment by DOV on September 26, 2017 at 12:34 AM

  2. My company provides quite a number of options to socialize, both at work and out of work.
    For the latter there is a total of 22 company facilitated activity groups (most of which are sports groups in fact), thus 14 in my location. I don’t want to list them all here, but checking through the group directory I already discovered one which sounds interesting to me: the Bowling group. Besides that, I am already a member of the Badminton group, which is always a lot of great fun and which provides me the possibility to have contact with colleagues, I otherwise would have never met!
    At work, my company has a total of 68 communities which allow to connect over team or departmental borders. Some of the communities are rather small and some are really big. Some are focused on certain countries or certain topics. I am a member in a whole bunch of these communities (incl. “IT Innovation”, “Project Management”, “Collaboration and Communication”) and the community manager of a company wide software developer network.
    I love to work in company communities. It gives me the opportunity to keep up to date about what’s going on in company and it allows me to help people across department, country and even continental boarders, thus adding value for everybody. And because of my permanent activity in these channels, I guess that I am probably the best known user in all Company-internal Social Media (SharePoint communities, Yammer, Microsoft Teams and Microsoft Groups at date), which already gained me some attendance among higher management, so I might possibly also have a personal benefit from it.

    Comment by Alexander Weinhard on September 26, 2017 at 12:35 PM

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This article is written by Jason Little on September 25th 2017.