Organisations are often compared to organisms, machines, brains, cultures, political systems, but these metaphors limit thinking about their design and operation. An alternative comparison is to a network, which is a complex, adaptive system. This metaphor allows for the appreciation of the organisation’s complexity, adaptability, and interconnectedness.

A network perspective recognises the importance of relationships and interactions within an organisation. It highlights the role of social capital, the value derived from relationships, which can be a significant source of competitive advantage. The network metaphor also emphasises the importance of the organisation’s position within a larger network of relationships, including suppliers, customers, competitors, and regulators.

In a networked organisation, power is decentralised, and everyone has potential influence. This requires a shift in management style from command-and-control to facilitation and support. Leaders need to foster a culture of collaboration, encourage the sharing of knowledge, and support the development of social capital.

The network metaphor also challenges conventional wisdom about organisational boundaries. In a networked world, boundaries are porous, and organisations need to be open to external influences. This requires a shift in mindset from protection to permeability, from control to collaboration.

Overall, the network metaphor offers a fresh perspective on organisational design and operation, highlighting the importance of relationships, adaptability, and openness. It challenges traditional notions of power, control, and boundaries, and points to a new way of thinking about and managing organisations.

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