Friday, January 10, 2014

10th January – Many new connections as we arrive in Tel Aviv, Israel

We fly into Tel Aviv at 12:30 am with Gary and Lyn and get to our hotel at 2:00am. One might think this is a trifle late, but we do see someone checking out while we are checking in. No curfews on their airport!

We meet Geoff and Noelene at breakfast. They have arrived the day before and have already experienced the hotels 5pm happy hour and free massages. Geoff and Noelene’s daughter Jo was with us for Xmas in Ortesei.

I have arranged to meet up with two Tel Aviv contacts who I will be able to meet physically for the first time. Firstly, Benny H. was been talking to us for a while now about SNA/ONA opportunities in Israel. Benny has come from a long career in the Military where he held quite senior roles. Benny H. is like a number of former senior executives I know who have left their senior roles to research and consult back to major corporations. I see many of these types of executives in the Doctorate in Business Administration program at Newcastle University. Basically they are executives who have experienced first hand, the gaps in the traditional expectation on how hierarchically organised organisations perform. They invariably are looking for new approaches for improving performance. This is something that is much harder to do when you are still in the "system" and the organisational politics that promotes conformance to norms. Many of them discover SNA/ONA in their search for a better way. Benny H. has been looking at organisations developing software using agile development methods. Agile is a bottom up management method, well suited to improvements using SNA/ONA.

Later in the morning I meet with Benny S. who works for a company not unlike Optimice, though newer to the market place. We talk about our common challenge of building a market for the commercial applications of SNA/ONA. We agree to explore some complementary work in the field of Safety, an area where Benny S. has worked, and has good industry contacts and an area where we are currently working with a client in Canada.

While I’m meeting with Benny S., friends Chris and Julie B. walk in from Istanbul (well actually they flew in but walking sounds more impressive). They complete our group of 8 that are touring Israel together. None of us have been to Israel before. Tel Aviv looks quite a sophisticated city. It has been called the ‘Paris of the Middle East’. We go to a fish restaurant for dinner … not the type with the white linen tablecloths, but one with white butchers paper, the type you usually find your fish and chips wrapped in, in Australia. It’s just what we are looking for.

Near our Hotel

3 Peas in a Pod

I chose 3rd from the bottom.

Sidebar - the Importance of Weak Ties

You will notice now after some 20+ days now that the cumulative social network map is getting pretty busy. You might ask what is the value of this? It just looks like a big mess. Others may see it as a piece of abstract art. In fact network maps have been used in Art Exhibitions. I saw this exhibition of Mark Lombardi's hand drawn network maps when I first met fellow Social Network Analyst Valdis Krebs in the 1990s when he took me to see it in his home town of Cleveland. Art aside, social network analysts use these messy network maps to explore for interesting patterns that can tell us something new or insightful about the people in the network. They do this by taking selective snapshots from the network. For example, I could extract just the network nodes from certain places, like say, Northern Italy. I could select by time like say, the 2 week period around the 1st of January. I could select based on the link type e.g. friends only, friends and family etc.. 

You might suggest that I could make the maps look less messy by not including the serendipitous acquaintances like the people we met in a cable car, or in a restaurant for instance. They are only fleeting connections with a high likelihood that we will never connect with them again. This is absolutely true, but not all connections need to be direct connections. Network scientists also work with what we call "affinity" connections i.e. people that are connected through common attributes. Some of these are obvious, like we met them at the same place. You can see some of those on the maps now. Others may not emerge until some time after. These are time based associative patterns that only emerge over time. We might only make these connections when looking back over time. For example I might reflect over our time in Sicily and note an associative connection between 3 of our AirBnB hosts Linda, Anna and Elena. Firstly they are independent female hosts running a B&B as their "business". Two of them are single and still live with their parents, perhaps making a statement about modern day Sicilian fact the exception Linda also provides commentary on this topic. This is all grit for the mill for the social scientist.

The other reason that we like to include 'weak ties' in our analyses as it has been found that weak ties are often the source of our most memorable experiences. Sure, perhaps 99% will fade into obscurity, but it is the 1%, those serendipitous 6 degrees of separation that we never forget. On a more business like note, our weak ties have also been shown to be the most likely source of innovation as they bring in new and diverse knowledge and experiences that we would not normally come into contact with. They have also been found to be the most likely way of finding a new job.... the topic of the now most celebrated theory of American academic Mark Granovetter's Strength of Weak Ties.

Social Network Map Update

New connections

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