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Coming Home As a Node in the Network

November 16th, 2011

I’m organizing marketing material for a new business product my partner and I are developing. The product is an easy to manage, low cost web platform that can be easily set up to help organizations tap into and support the collaboration and innovation resources of their staff. My marketing task includes integrating a few examples from my 25 plus years working as an employee in a wide variety of management roles in the non-profit sector.

As I reflected on the many roles I’ve held, a new insight about my current role identity has emerged.

Throughout my successful career in the non-profit sector, I held roles with a title and a set of responsibilities. Operating as a consultant for the past 3 years has given me a new perspective about my early role identity. Before I became a consultant, I was constantly moving from one non-profit contract to another, holding down very challenging roles but firmly entrenched as an employee in a hierarchical, command and control work structure.

Looking back, I characterize my role identity in the non-profit sector as a time when I had a J.O.B. mindset. A lot has changed over the past few years. I am not attached or operate with that mindset anymore. What now makes the most sense to me is recognizing and accepting that my role identity is one of functioning as a node in the network.

What are some of the factors brought me to my new role identity?

Like many others I was totally enamoured with using social web technologies to further my professional development and learning needs. I also introduced these powerful communication and connecting tools in my organizations and in the programs I managed.  It was very apparent to me that these social tech tools were vital for organizations if they were to stay relevant and sustainable in our new networked, connected society.

When my last employment contract ended (project funding only lasts so long), I knew deep down that my J.O.B. mindset days were over. I saw a new role ahead as a consultant, helping groups use social tech to meet their business goals. Equally important was helping staff use social tech to enhance their professional development, collaboration and innovation skills as they worked on business projects.

Looking back, I clearly see that I fully bought into and accepted the beliefs and assumptions that make up a J.O.B. mindset. These beliefs and assumptions were ingrained or immersed in the work culture of the organization. In hindsight, I recognize how conditioned I was after 25 years of working with a J.O.B. mindset.  Let’s not leave out my 20 years of conditioning in the educational system. I believe that the pervasiveness of this heavy systemic indoctrination kept me in a state of learned helplessness and tethered to the notion that the J.O.B. mindset was the only option available.

It has taken me considerable time to transition from my old role identity with a J.O.B. mindset to a node in the network mindset. As a node in my network, I sustain my learning and livelihood through my network relationships.  My network is active both online and off, dynamic, always in varying stages of forming and emerging. In my network, relationships can be informal or ones that are based on shared experience and trust. I’m solely responsible for the strength of my network. Nurturing and contributing to my network is one of my primary roles.

Having a node in the network mindset is helping me move forward in my career and learning. I think a person’s mindset or an organization’s mindset is one of the most crucial factors that determine how well you will meet the challenges of the 21st century.  With this insight I am better equipped to help organizations function as a node in their networks.

It’s taken me several years to understand my new role identity mindset. Fortunately, nobody’s keeping score. It’s starting the journey that counts.

Great references to ponder:

It’s the Network – Harold Jarche, Internet Time Alliance

Managing in a Networked World, Harold Jarche, Internet Time Alliance (slideshare)


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  1. November 17th, 2011 at 18:09 | #1


    What were the critical factors that led to your change? I once heard that in a networked world, leadership is from the middle and for the purpose. It changes from person to person based on the job required. However, this means that we often have many jobs, many bosses, many associates, many colleagues. This frightens many people. What were your fears and how did you overcome them?

  2. November 18th, 2011 at 09:29 | #2

    I don’t quite know where to start in my response Peter. My post wasn’t so much about fears and me overcoming fears. It was more about sharing a major role (work) identity shift that has brought me to a personal realization related to my new role identity. I had a response on one of my networks that touches more on what my post is about. Here it is:

    Hi Brent,
    based on personal experience since 2006, I also went through that process from a job to a network node mindset. As of now, this transition comes with lots of benefits for me.

    However, I think such transitions are yet poorly understood. I see much discussions about knowledge management but think the role transition you point out is much more important.

    I think this role transition effect might be the underlying effect triggering the knowledge management discussion. Failing to recognize this this makes knowledge management boring and just a tool to keep on top of the food chain.

    I’m interested in the tool you started to develop with your partner.

    Peter Kopecki

    This is my response to Peter:

    Thanks for sharing your comment Peter. I believe this transition is not uncommon, however I haven’t seen many posts about the role identity mindset shift. This shift takes time to unfold and only now I’m fully accepting it as my new role identity. This is after 8 years of active online life and using social tech in my work.

    I agree on your point about KM being another discussion about “something out there or just another tool” especially when there is little reference to the underlying personal dynamics that trigger the KM discussion. Making sense out of how you are understanding & defining your role identity (or your own life or anything for that matter) and doing something with that sense making is for me like, making a quantum leap and very empowering.

    I will send you an update about our collaboration tool my partner and I are developing. We are a few months away from launching our website.


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