Response to Hayim Herring

Originally published: Tuesday, May 07, 2013
My comment to a wonderful EJewishphilanthropy post by Rabbi Hayim Herring.
Thank you for this wonderful piece on the timely and important topic of networks. I particularly like this phrasing “They rely on influence and not control, connections and not command.” I want to build on your piece and ask the question how do networks integrate with organizations, or put another way, how do networks integrate with hierarchies?
The reason I find this question interesting and relevant is that at this point in the life of the Jewish community the building blocks of our community are organizations (note it need not be in the future – see the example of Berkana that reorganized itself out of an organizational structure).
How do organizations integrate network thinking, values and structures? In my recent experience, I see a few organizations going the mile and leading the path to become networked non-profits, hybrids of sorts. And a challenge I note in the integration is the lack of clarity of how networked and how hierarchical and where the boundaries are. I think that as networked thinking penetrates an organization, a fear — or a wish — sets in that everything is now networked and flat and resentment and demoralization can set in about existing hierarchical features of the organization. In order to avoid this problem (and I may be pushing the envelope beyond where most organizations are), I encourage leadership that is moving in this direction to be thoughtful about setting expectations and trying to be clear about where the boundaries and limits of network and the hierarchy exist. It is messy and evolving but I think it gets beyond the all or nothing thinking that can paralyze those who want to take the risk and bite those who are out in front. We are living in interesting times and need to figure this out together. Thank you for continuing the dialogue.

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