Why you can’t love more than 150 people at a time.

John Seeley Brown has been talking recently about a thing called a ‘process network’. He describes them as loosely coupled networks that can come together at a moments notice. Not loosely coupled at the transactional level, but in terms of long term relations – a relational architecture rather than a transactional architecture. They get activated in loosely couple systems, which he also says is a contradiction.

These transactional relationships often power business, between seller, existing customer and potential new customers. This he talks about as working in a captive mode. His view of relational, process networks are much more open, non-captive, have long term relationships and are loosely coupled. The result of process networks is that they have the ability to produce spectacular results, as the transactions are not captive, in that one network does not have transactional control or dominance over the other.

Harold Reinhold says institutions and businesses are used to ‘culturating’ staff, and suppliers. They train them in ‘how we do things here’ and they are not used to learning.  He says that  CEO’s and executives  don’t want to learn from lower-ranks and that organisations can’t keep up unless they start to pay attention and learn from people who enter their business,  The  only way to do this is to have a culture that promotes reverse mentoring, where staff, lower on the food chain teach senior ones about what it is they are doing all day.

When I thought about this, I wondered how big these things could be, and found a recent post about Dunbar’s number.  I thought I’d waste some time seeing if this made sense.

So I chose a random Tweep, with a big follow list and kept score.

Gratton Girl is following and being followed by about 50,000 people. I watched her output for a week using Yahoo Pipes, just to see if it supported Browns idea. I get really bored on trains, so used Storify to collect the data from Pipes,  catagorised  into themes using Google Docs;  either relational or transactional.

90% of what is Tweeted is transactional. Behind the Tweets is a writer, an actress and plenty of black and white photos of herself and people like her, which I assume represents her relational network. Of the hundreds of Tweets a week the vast majority are about the transaction.

Hat-Tip to Sarah Gratton, she’s playing the transactional network brilliantly and illustrates what Brown says – if you want to access Gratton-world, you have to do it via a transaction.

So I did the same for some suspected transactional educators too for a week. That was easier – less Tweets.

I watched @ replies from people to their Tweets. Shock, horror – only very rarely do they respond to unless it appears there was a further transactional value. For example, someone might Tweet ‘check out this teacher’s work” -(the teacher being in some captive program). A reply might be “wow, that’s looks fantastic”, which might get a reply “Yes, and that’s’ only one example!”. If a reply came back “Can you share how that came about”, then the intent appears an effort to be relational – and 9 times out of ten, ignored.

In fact, the level of ‘ignore’ was  proportional to their transactional output. So I watched some non-commercials – the inverse happens – but they are far more likely to hat-tip a commercial than the other way around, as they are relationship seeking.

Lots of leaders do this, and it’s really annoying. They almost never seek to learn from anyone else – and why would they, they are the leader after all and it’s more about them and their transactions.

So the PLN to me isn’t a total love-in, in fact quite the opposite. No wonder people who are not on Twitter seem unconvinced. In fact, pointing people to Twitter and saying ‘follow them’ might as well be sitting them in front of a computer to watch banner ads for an hour.

My conclusion was that I need to find something else to do on the train and that I’m pretty lucky to have a process-network that never tires in our mission.