Less Media. More Social.
In “Social Physics: How Social Networks Can Make Us Smarter,” Alex Pentland, data scientist and director of MIT’s Connection Science and Human Dynamics Labs, examines big questions like, “How can we design organizations that are cooperative, productive, and creative?”
“Social physics,” coined by philosopher Auguste Comte in the 19th century, focuses on idea flow: the way human social networks spread ideas and transform those ideas into behaviors. In the research behind this book, Pentland used a Big Data approach to studying patterns of information exchange in workplaces.
Based on his findings, Pentland argues that three aspects of communication affect teams and their performance. The first is energy, which people generate by their interactions — most effectively, face to face. The second is exploration, wherein people actively seek different views and ideas outside of their teams. The third is engagement. “Groups have a collective intelligence that is mostly independent of the intelligence of individual participants,” Pentland writes. The most creative processes of engagement, he argues, are those with “equality of conversational turn taking” — discussions with many short, high-energy exchanges in which no one dominates. The idea is that the dynamics of the exchange are more important than the knowledge of each person. So, what can you do to foster more, and more equitable, communication in your creative workplace? tinyurl.com/SocialPhysicsPentland