Most of us will never get to manage a large hierarchy. Many of those who do complain about their lack of power.
We assume our power and value comes from position in hierarchies. We are trained by our social structures to see these pyramids as sources of power and value. Our hierarchical status influences our health and happiness. Hierarchical instincts may well run back to our ape brain. There is a very good chance that hierarchy is solving for problems that don’t reflect our current challenges.
I was reflecting on the new maps feature of Linkedin and what struck me was that the hierarchies of my past life were hard to see in the network diagram. In fact, what I saw prompted this:
Your hierarchy is the smallest & least valuable part of your network— Simon Terry (@simongterry)
Hierarchy is the smallest and least valuable part of my network. The relationships formed in hierarchy have disappeared into a much more valuable & diverse mesh of relationships.
If my relationships were created by hierarchies, what created value was direct connection and a net of common relationships that lasted long after the hierarchies changed. Little value came from connections mediated through the hierarchies.
In addition, when I look beyond the hierarchies, I saw a much richer and more valuable network of relationships.
There were the networks of support. So many people gave me the skills and experiences that helped make me who I am. So many people sustained me and were my sources of advice and counsel. Then there were the hundreds of collaborators.
There were networks of value too. Customers and community determine the value that I create in the world. Creating change and making things happen has always been more about ability to influence and collaborate in this wider network than the power to order anything.
In a networked world, it might be time to think differently about influence and value. Stop looking at the hierarchy and look to the network that surrounds it. We may all be more effective, healthier and happier as a result.