Black and White Networks v. Networks in Colour

I've been chatting to the more than thought provoking Jon Husband
about HR, changing practice, the need for deep change and the role of

One of the thoughts that crossed my mind is the potential
contrast between black & white and coloured networks.

What do I mean by black & white and coloured networks? The rise in
networking, network analysis and the recognition that improved
relationships (and lower transaction costs) are drivers of better
has been gaining greater recognition in recent times.

This recognition and the use of the appropriate tools then leads to
the creation of diagrams such as the ones below1.

While these types of diagrams are presented without context, they are
often used to represent paths of communication, trust, people who
connect groups and influence the flow of information. They also can be
used to show how a process is really carried out and by whom in a way
that can contrast or complement the traditional (or assumed)
organisational structure.

Another key feature of these diagrams is that the lines connecting
people tend to be black and white
. There may be arrows to show flows of information and sometimes the line width varies too. Also, the
length of the line usually has no material bearing on the
interpretation of the diagram. My point in all of this being that the
black and white network diagram is exactly that, black and white.

By way of contrast, the use of 4G makes it possible to create network
maps that are coloured and show how each connection has different
qualities to it.

In other words, each connection or relationship can
be assigned a weight/colour to show the nature of a particular
relationship. In this case, green represents the most productive and
engaging relationships
while blue, yellow and red require greater and
greater levels of time and energy to be as productive as the green
ones. This then adds a whole new spectrum of information to complement our understanding of the network and people's relationships within it.

As a final note, it's also worth making a couple of other
observations. Firstly, while there are just four colours in the
diagrams above, there are actually 14 different types of relationship,
suggesting far greater complexity and granularity than can be shown with just 4 colours. Equally, there is a whole series of tips,
suggestions and ways to improve and develop these relatonships from a
coaching and development point of view.

Finally, given that the information from 4G in its current state is
100 percent psychological and the information in other network
analysis diagrams is 100 percent contextual, the two make very
complementary bed-fellows
, each one providing the other with
information that compensates for the other's blindspot.


1. Image credit Wikimedia Commons

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