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HC Networks I
August 06, 2002) -
Increasingly, we see Human Capital as something that flows through a company much as Financial Capital does. It comes in, gets used and leaves. The job, shared by executives, middle managers and recruiters is to manage the flow and optimize the company's return on it.

Although it's an obvious point, Human Capital comes from somewhere, gets used and goes somewhere. At each step, acquisition, utilization and disposition, a series of related networks are developed and engaged. Much of the potential of our industry rests on the possibility that these networks can be documented, understood and, ultimately, created by design.

Malcolm Gladwell (see yesterday), points out a key characteristic of social networks that isn't covered by the basics of Network Theory that we've been outlining recently:

I discuss the people who spread the word on new ideas: connectors, mavens and salesmen. Connectors know a lot of people because they are gregarious, social and cultivate friends. They spread the word but aren't the ones that learn about something first. Connectors learn about new things by a random process. Because they know so many people, they get access to new information wherever it pops up. Mavens are the early adopters who seem to be the first to try new things, and tell others, but aren't good arm twisters. Salesmen are the people who, once they know about something, can drag others into trying something new. They are responsible for recruiting those who are least likely to get on board a trend or product.
From Wells Fargo

What makes someone a Connector? The first--and most obvious--criterion is that Connectors know lots of people. They are the kinds of people who know everyone. All of us know someone like this. But I don't think that we spend a lot of time thinking about the importance of these kinds of people. I'm not even sure that most of us really believe that the kind of person who knows everyone really knows everyone. But they do.
From Gladwell.com

In other words, social networks have hubs and nodes. Although Gladwell uses a "viral" metaphor to explain his view of the way ideas move through social networks (and that is at least somewhat misleading), the underlying point is important. Networks change and communicate based on the behavior and insight of the "connectors" or hubs.

The question for people managing the acquisition, utilization or disposition of Human Capital is simple but important: How can these hubs be used to improve the overall process?

 -John Sumser


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