Need to Develop Network Thinking and Seventh Sense for Success in the 21st Century

The Age of Networks

We live in the Age of Networks. Networks are everywhere and anywhere and real-time connectivity and mobile communications mean that we just cannot be without developing the ability to think in terms of network thinking.

Indeed, given the fact that we live in a globalized world where events in one part of the world are instantaneously transmitted and broadcast to everyone and everywhere means that one has to have the skills required to navigate this terrain where global networks rule our world.

Seventh Sense

Some authors have called this the ability to think in terms of the Seventh Sense wherein in addition to being able to intuit and sense the emerging trends, one also needs to develop network sense wherein top down and bottom up approaches are not binary meaning that it is not the case that both top down or bottom up or either is the dominant paradigm.

In other words, in earlier eras, the top-down hierarchical thinking was the norm, leaders, and professionals used to think in terms of such hierarchies. With the advent of the services sector and the rise of the internet, this soon gave way to a combination of top down and bottom up thinking that was needed for success.

However, the network thinking skills are not top down or bottom up alone or even, a combination of both since the attributes of emergence and systems’ thinking means that either or both approaches do not work anymore.

Instead, what is the norm here is to study networks using systems thinking and arrive at decisions that are not linear in thought processes.

In other words, network thinking means that any event or happening or even trend or signal does not lend itself to straight line results wherein it is easy to predict what happens using linear thought processes.

The Case of Donald Trump and Brexit as Failures of Linear Thinking

For instance, take the case of the recent election in the United States that led to Donald Trump becoming the President. Most pollsters got it wrong as they were using linear extrapolations and straight line thinking from opinion polls and surveys that predicted a victory for Hillary Clinton.

However, what happened was that the extensive use of Social Media such as Twitter and Facebook meant that those who thought regarding network thinking where able to predict the correct outcome whereas those who stuck with the traditional thinking got it wrong.

Indeed, even the Brexit vote wherein a majority of the British people voted to leave the European Union was similarly not predicted by many who thought in terms of linear models.

These examples indicate that the present stage of global connectivity and instantaneous communications have spawned a system where disturbances in one node of the network are transmitted to the other nodes, and the entire network is disrupted leading to outcomes that can neither be predicted nor anticipated by linear modes of thinking.

What this means is that to be successful in the 21st Century, one needs to develop network thinking wherein the holistic ability to spot trends from signals and outcomes from the interactions of the various nodes is the key to success.

Developing Network Thinking

If you are a student aspiring to become a technical or a managerial professional, it would be better if you acquaint yourself with systems thinking wherein you have the ability to deduce the outcomes of events and the impacts of such events in one part or node of the network on the other parts as well as the entire network.

You can do this by training yourself to picture the entire world as a network and to imagine each node as being linked to the other through connections that are both global and local in nature.

Indeed, while we think of the globe as a vast network, purely local events cannot be discounted as well since after all, the network effects are determined by the intersection of the global and local.

One Cannot Ignore Local Events and Hence, One must Develop Glocal Thinking

Thus, it is essential for professionals and business leaders to anticipate both the global and the local by thinking in Glocal terms where one can anticipate the impacts of global events and at the same time, be rooted in the local.

For example, if a riot or an earthquake or even extreme climatic events happen, one needs a combination of global and local thinking wherein one has to relay and transmit the impacts to other parts of the network that can be global in nature while responding in purely local terms to the events that can disrupt your business or even personal life.

This is especially the case with Business leaders in India who operate globally but at the same time apply network thinking to purely local events thereby ensuring that they respond in a Glocal manner.

Develop Zen-like Calmness

Lastly, anyone who uses network thinking is aware that it is simply not possible to assess and gauge the outcomes from any decision or event and hence, it is better to also develop a Zen-like mindset where the ability to stay calm and composed in the face of fast-changing events where each new “live update” should be responded to without losing one’s equanimity.

In other words, it is better for the network thinkers to also develop Mindfulness so that they are not brought down by overloaded thought processes that can hamper and hinder as well as impair calm decision making.


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