I dunno! You wait months for a decent conference and then they all come along at once!
Just spent a lovely couple of days up at Lancaster University in a gathering hosted by the new Stringbag consortium of Mike Pedler, John Burgoyne, Tom Boydell, John Mackmersh and Chris Blantern. The chaps have been working together for some time now on the emerging importance of networks as the new organising form.
They each come to this topic from somewhat different perspectives – management and organisation learning; relational practice and social construction; the new science. Along with some fascinating and engaging practical perspectives from public, private and third sector organisations that were there, the 24 hour conference gave us a great start for this new collaborative research consortium.
Food for thought for me came in the form of reflections about the connections between this and my (related) work on complex project management. John B and Mike talked about the emergence and the nature of networks, as distinct from hierarchies and markets, as organising forms. For complex projects, or the ‘wicked’ or intractable problems of our time, hierarchies and markets have given us neither the tools nor the conditions to make sufficient progress. Networks on the other hand, seem to better describe what actually happens, and what works, to engage and involve those with real ‘skin in the game’ for making practical progress on the issues that really matter.
I’m looking forward to spending more time in this gathering, exploring and understanding whats working already in different contexts and what we can (learn to) do to create and sustain the conditions in which self-organising, self-directed, purposeful networks can thrive.