360 Degrees of Cohesion

You probably know of the “Six degrees of Separation”; the outcome of an experiment back in the early 1960s showing that for any person on the planet to reach any other person on the planet, nobody would need to go through more than six people to reach each other.

Naturally, we don’t personally know the other five people.  If we did, we would contact that other person directly and skip a degree or more. (I should name that the world had 3 billion, not 8 billion, inhabitants in the ‘60s; on the other hand, we have social media.  Perhaps the number is now seven?)

For years, I have been LinkedIn-connected with Jeppe Vilstrup Hansgaard, the CEO of Innovisor, a company that does worldwide organizational development consulting from the entry point of Organizational Network Analysis (ONA).  And no, this is not a pitch for you to recruit them for analyzing your company.  Bear with me for another couple of paragraphs.

What I particularly like about Innovisor’s work is that it is founded on data.  By now, they have millions of connections depicted in their database, not just from harvesting organizations’ internal files for who messages whom, phone calls happening between whom, and meeting rosters, …, but from actually talking to the employees.  Both Jeppe and Innovisor share insightful articles on how ONA helps organizations understand who their secret heroes are, how silos impair their performance, the true cost of attrition, what factors impede inclusion and belonging,…  – you know, the important stuff we should care more about than the quarter-by-quarter stock price development.

One of the ways to measure a network is to calculate how many people, on average, each member needs to go through to reach any other member of the network.  The lower the number, the more cohesive the network.

If the whole planet was a network, this number would evidently be six (or perhaps seven).  There is your upper limit.  If anybody in your organization needs to go through more than six people to reach somebody else, you are failing spectacularly.

Per chance (or not): in organizations, cohesion correlates positively with bottom-line results.  One reason is that people don’t sit with problems for too long when they know whom to ask for help.

When I saw Dennis Pitocco’s Points of Light post, the picture in the piece looked almost like an Organizational Network diagram, inspiring writing about this subject, and Jeppe mentioning Mark O’Brien in a recent post made me want to finish that thought.

My guess is that to reach Dennis, nobody in the BizCatalyst network will need an intermediary.  If that is so, for those on LinkedIn, everybody in the network are 1st or 2nd connections.  (That usually means that we can message each other on that platform if need be.  Thank you, Dennis.)

I am not good enough at reaching out to new members of the network, but mention you are a BizCat in an invitation to link and I accept, no questions asked. (As you are connected with Dennis, you can even send me a message.  I can be slow on the uptake if I haven’t yet crossed paths with you.  Thank you for inviting me to link, by the way, I am now spurred to do better myself.)

I regularly get invitations showing that we already have 5, 17, 41, 187 connections in common so I am positive that the BizCat network is a very cohesive body.

What is the effect of reaching out toward newcomers?  That they wish to stay in the network.  That is no different than in an organization or a neighborhood.  It takes people who know the place and culture to acculturate the new people, and if newcomers never get to feel that they belong, they are probably not going to hang around or participate.  Perhaps they only get to know the other newcomers who also feel lost?  How useful is that to the community at large if there is no transfer of organizational/cultural knowledge?

When Innovisor does the analysis, they are way fancier than just looking at who are connected with whom through LinkedIn.  They look at who interacts with whom?  Does a relationship go both ways?  Whom do you ask for help?  Whom do you have lunch with?  Whom do you recommend for what tasks?  Who meets outside of work?

Whom do you trust? Who trusts you?

This is no different in the 360° Nation network.  Innovisor would probably analyze who supports your writing and whether you support them in return.  Do you like or comment, on LinkedIn or on the BizCatalyst site?  Do you message each other?  Set up direct calls?  Do you “meet” outside of LinkedIn?  How do BizCats partake in other of the activities under the 360° Nation umbrella and get to know each other in other ways than through LinkedIn posts and comments:  Friendship Bench, Salon 360°, Byline 360°, showing up at Encounter 360° in Tampa…

This is a bit like who plays fuzzball in the breakroom even if they are not on the same team.

Or perhaps BizCats have collaborations that have nothing to do with 360 Nation? Some might not happen on LinkedIn.  Members show up on each other’s podcasts.  Use each other in their resp. professional capacities.  Go to the No Longer Virtual Summit.  Hang out on their own Zoom accounts, or – gasp – in person!  Like friends, from no professional motivation at all.

Like in organizations, the 360° Nation network also has some “siloing”.

Silos can be caused by geography.  It is hard to attend activities if they happen in the wee hours of the morning.  While I am a little in doubt about Mark Ried, I am almost sure even Susan Rooks sleeps between 3 and 4 am, and just like it is always past 6 pm somewhere; somewhere on the planet, it is also always inconvenient to be on Zoom at 11:30 am ET.  Even if a second Friendship Bench was scheduled for a different time, it would probably just create two core groups attending each one of the benches. Aka silo.

Silos can also be caused by subjects.  Interests attract.  There are around 1000 contributors on 360° Nation, and I probably don’t know 80% of them.  Of the ones I do know, some I interact with daily, and some I hardly ever see.  (Some I really miss seeing but they don’t have time to write as often after the pandemic closedown ended, and that throws a wrench in LinkedIn’s algorithms.  Do you know who your “gang” is so you can tag them if you have been offline for a while and get into the loop again?)

Which means that silos also can be reinforced by algorithms.  The people you interact with regularly will keep showing up in your feed.  Do you unprompted remember the people you used to interact with regularly but who now don’t show up in neither notifications, nor feed?  And perhaps tag them from time to time? Or visit their activity page to get them back into your notifications by commenting unprompted on their latest posts?  How many bells have you rung to make sure you get updates?

Gradually, a central network member can end up on the fringes.  Perhaps they are temporarily too busy to be active on LinkedIn, that is the positive story. Otherwise, they may unwittingly be sidelined when they need their network’s support the most.

I know I am not nearly good enough at catching this, either.

Our brain (and emotions) have not caught up to 1) a network of more than 150 people or 2) how our “social life” is dictated by algorithms that can be good or bad or have unintentional quirks. Don’t feel sad or sidelined but holler, tag, DM, ring bells, and ask for the network’s help, energy, and reposts…

After all, BizCatalyst 360° is also about supporting each other’s endeavors.


Charlotte Wittenkamp
Charlotte Wittenkamp
Charlotte Wittenkamp is an organizational psychologist who counsels international transfers, immigrants, and foreign students in overcoming culture shock. Originating from Denmark, where she worked in organizational development primarily in the finance industry, Charlotte has lived in California since 1998. Her own experiences relocating lead down a path of research into value systems and communication patterns. She shares this knowledge and experience through speaking and writing and on her website Many of these “learning experiences” along with a context to put them in can be found in her book Building Bridges Across Cultural Differences, Why Don’t I Follow Your Norms?. On the side, she leads a multinational and multigenerational communication training group.

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