Leveraging network information for personal development

I am a closet introvert. So good, that time after time MBTI reports have shown me to be an extreme extrovert. However, if you know me, you know that large gatherings baffle, pain and drain me. Yet, I have little choice but to constantly seek ways to place myself in social forums. Given this struggle between wanting to stay out of sight and having to be right under the spotlight, I often find myself wondering if I’m doing enough. Imagine the joy if someone handed me a report on where exactly my efforts (or rather lack of) land me and where I should be (sweet balance?). Fortunately, I needn’t look any further than an old favorite of mine– the much loved Organizational Network Analysis (ONA) that I’ve spoken about here, here, here and here. I doubt if you’d need more evidence of my love for this nifty tool.

It all began with a chance conversation with Michal Gradshtein, Founder & CEO of StarLinks. We began our conversation with me lamenting about HR & technology and thankfully, we soon moved the focus to ONA. I am so glad that Michal sought me out for conversation for had she not; I would have continued to view ONA as a tool that threw out data for both the individual and the organization. The thought that ONA could be used as a purely developmental tool that did not let anyone view individual data except the person themselves had never crossed my mind. Of course, everyone gets a look at an aggregated data set but the fact that reports are individualized and private makes the below questions so much easier to answer:

  1. Who is going to have access to my data? (No-one)
  2. What are you going to do with my data? (Nothing. No-one else has access. This is for you alone.)
  3. Will I get to see a report? (Yep, you get your own individual report. In addition, you also have access to a bird-eye of the aggregated data.)

This increases the chances of individuals responding honestly to the survey vs how they think they should be responding. After all, who does not want to use information to improve themselves?

StarLinks does this beautifully by asking four short questions. It uses open text vs asking people to indicate frequency for each other person in the network. This works in this environment because there is no program manager who is going to map out an entire network and use this data for re-structuring, career mapping or any other such exercise. Responses are collected via easy to understand questions under the categories of knowledge, thought, energy and functional. You know I’m always on the lookout for good questions and these questions make me very happy. They begin by asking – ‘Who do you turn to for knowledge and information needed for your work? Name up to five people who you turn to when you need valuable knowledge and information. Think of those people who promote your work by sharing their expertise and experience.’

1Once you’ve responded to these questions, the tool throws out a report similar to what you view below. This gives you a wealth of information such as the network density, the strength of your ties, where you lie in terms of impact, agility, overload risk and a variety of other information. This allows you to flex your skills where needed. A debrief can also help you understand how to better understand this information and how to use this understanding to reach career goals.

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3You also get an insight into the organizational view that will help you understand the bigger picture and where you fit in. The old rule of thumb still applies though – you need a minimum of 80% responses for the data to be useful.

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5If you’ve been following this blog long enough, you know that I never mention a product unless it’s provoked thought – either positive or negative. Michal and StarLinks left me wanting to experiment more with networks. It is common knowledge that work in an organizations gets done more via the networks people build vs the formal hierarchy. The same is true with everything else in life. If there exists a way for you to leverage this more effectively, why not? If network analysis intrigues you, I’d strongly encourage you to visit the StarLinks website. Better still; go hear Michal speak at the upcoming Fifteen Seconds Europe taking place on June 7-8, 2018 at Graz.

Happy networking!

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