Monday, 22 November 2010

What's the value in a network?

The Generation Y employee is used to texting, emailing, virtual networking, buying from ebay and googling. All of which are activities being tapped into by the more innovative organisations. Message to disgruntled employers who try to ban them - you're missing a trick. As I am frequently told when I moan about reality TV - "Resistance is Futile"!

Generation Y entrepreneur Mark Elliot Zuckerberg (born May 14, 1984) is an American who co-founded the social networking site Facebook. On Zuckerberg's Facebook page, he lists his personal interests as "openness, making things that help people connect and share what's important to them, revolutions, information flow, minimalism." Already facebook are trying to figure out how to monetise eliminating email through creating new ways for us to communicate.

The main criticism of facebook is that as it is centralised, it is a form of "spying for free" however this is where it's value currently comes from. Through selling this knowledge for commercial purposes as well as being able to generate advertising revenue. The current value of this network is huge - in terms of monetising its value, apparently Facebook falls somewhere between Google, Ebay and Yahoo (estimated between $30-50bn .. so pretty huge in financial terms).

When we talk of relationships and leverage in business we are no longer just considering the strength of those between employees, clients and suppliers. We have to think of our relationships with the world. In order to respond, adapt, and keep ahead of the pack, we have to let the employees who are ardent networkers, ebayers and googlers lead the way in terms of networking. It's no coincidence then, that the entrepreneurs who are making their mark in networking are from the Generation Y brigade. Is it then the case that we need Generation Y bosses who can think in the same way? Possibly ... Can it be learned by a Generation X boss? Possibly..

In terms of placing a value on your people, they are still considered to be largely an "intangible asset". However, in terms of networking and knowledge, their value is inestimable. Intangible assets such as human knowledge, internal structures, ways of working, reputation, and business relationships are not easily monetised in clearly defined terms. There are some methods which aim to model, analyse, evaluate, and improve the capability of a business to convert both tangible and intangible assets into other forms of negotiable value, and to realise greater value for themselves. Underlying this approach is an understanding that intangible, but nonetheless strong and dynamic relationships, and the intangible assets that make up and have an impact on those relationships, are the foundation of any successful business endeavour. It does appear to be the case that the future success of an organisation as a whole is going to depend more and more on how effectively it can demonstrate and so convert one form of value into another. This seems to be something which Facebook is also keen to do also - if they succeed then this will affect the value (and leadership and communication capability) of every organisation on the planet.