Marc Burgauer – Do More Shit Together: Social Networks at Work

Norm Kerth’s agile prime directive reminds us that “Regardless of what we discover, we understand and truly believe that everyone did the best job they could, given what they knew at the time, their skills and abilities, the resources available, and the situation at hand.” If I was in your shoes, I would have done the same. This requires a system view, seeing actions of others embedded in a specific environment and context. If we want to change outcomes, we have to change the system, but which aspects of the system can or should we attempt to change?

We can change the work environment (office perks, flexitime, etc.), change the method of work (e.g. become Lean or Agile) and yet fail at changing outcomes. What we’re often missing is what is happening in the social network. “Meaning arises through the interactions between things, not in the things themselves” says Alicia Juarrero. We gain meaning at work through our interactions. Our interactions build a social network.

Hard things become easier when we share them. A group sharing in solving problems honestly and openly becomes a community. Participating in a community means changing behaviour. A community means a change in the local configuration of the social network. What enables community is trust. “In the industrial era, what created scale was more resources. In the social era, what creates scale is trust.” – Nilofer Merchant

In this talk, I will try to offer some answers:

– What insights into team work can we gain from the perspective of social networks?
– How can community enable us to tolerate discomfort?
– How does that trust enable scale?


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