In Adam Grant’s Audible Original, Power Moves, he explains how influence works differently in hierarchies and networks. Through a series of interviews conducted at Davos, Grant gives us the tools to drive progress in each structure and also shows us how to avoid the types of thinking that can trap an organization. These tools apply to everyone.
In a hierarchy, command and control gets the job done. Orders are dictated and followed. A factory analogy applies here – the factory owner decides on the widget and the employees carry out the production. Any employee can be swapped out for someone with similar task-related skills. When we think of innovation and adaptation, a factory operates from the top down. New ideas don’t easily travel up the chain of command.
In a network, collaborate and learn is the path to success. A co-op (cooperative) analogy applies here – think of sports team where the player in each position adapts to the opponent in real time. Networks are exposed to much more variability since any person-swapping will be impacted by each individual’s range of abilities. When we think of innovation and adaptation, a co-op operates in a much more distributed manner because everyone is relied on to receive and deliver feedback to the broader group.
When the goal is maximizing profits from a known process, a hierarchy has the advantage. When the goal is staying relevant and uncovering new profit centers, networks have the advantage. Hierarchies tend to operate on the belief that one person already had the best idea. Networks operate on the belief that any person could come up with the next good idea. Both have very different life cycles and ways of making progress.
At Davos, where everyone wants to be successful or at least still be successful tomorrow, Grant’s questions resonated. In our own world, by understanding when we are engaging in/with hierarchies or networks, and when to use command and control vs. collaborate and learn, we can build a map of our own future. Influencing the systems we engage with is how we thrive, so understanding how they operate makes all the difference. With Grant’s concepts in mind, we can analyze our own situation and ask what we can do to help it move forward.