Networking the World

By Jessica Lipnack and Jeffrey Stamps

Futurist (The World Future Society), July, 1993

Bill Clinton is now and has always been a networker. We can personally attest to how long he has been honing his networking skills.

Like several hundred other Americans, we (Jeff and Jessica) met each other as students at Oxford University in 1968. Jeff was a Fulbright Scholar studying political philosophy; Jessica was an undergraduate studying on a one-year exchange. There, we also met the future U.S. president.

Shortly after Bill Clinton arrived as a Rhodes Scholar in the fall of 1968, Jeff met him at a Rhodes House function on Oxford's Parks Road. After talking a few minutes, Bill pulled out a black address book.

"What are you doing here at Oxford, Jeff?" Bill asked.

"I'm at Pembroke on a Fulbright," Jeff said. Bill wrote down the name of Jeff's Oxford college, then asked about his undergraduate school and his major.

"Bill, why are you writing this down?" Jeff asked a bit skeptically.

"I'm going into politics and plan to run for governor of Arkansas and I'm keeping track of everyone I meet," Bill explained.

Bill Clinton's little black book must be very large now. Today, he can turn to aides, handing them people's business cards, letters, proposals, and even resumes as people give them to him. It is impossible to read an article about Clinton that doesn't refer to his prodigious networking skills.

Clearly, Cinton had been plaiting his political braid for a long time before he announced his candidacy for president, weaving together many differing constituencies into what are now known as Friends of Bill.

The Power of Team Networks

Like most campaigns, Bill Clinton's depended heavily on networking. His success dramatically demonstrated the power of a tool that can help solve the world's problems: the "TeamNet Factor." It is a tool to increase people's ability to do things together, yet remain independent.

"TeamNets" are amalgams of teams working together in networks that cross disciplinary boundaries, institutional boundaries, community boundaries, and national boundaries. They empower both the group and its individual members. The principles behind these networks of teams are changing the way we conduct business and offering a successful formula for world governance.

The Clinton campaign clearly illustrates the principles of successful TeamNets:

1. Clarify the Unifying Purpose. A very clear purpose focused the campaign. Clinton mentioned it in every speech. Someone wrote it on a white board in Little Rock headquarters as a reminder to campaign workers: "It's the Economy, Stupid."

2. Identify Independent Members. Some 3,000 independent volunteers - members - poured into Little Rock to help, with many thousands more shoring up the operation in each of the 50 states, then disbanded just as quickly when the carnpaign was over.

3. Create Voluntary Links. Fax machines, cellular phones, and telephone conference calls kept the regional and state operators in constant touch with Little Rock headquarters, providing a very disciplined use of intense two-way communication links between Little Rock and the state coordinators every day.

4. Recognize the Power of Multiple Leaders. Many leaders populated the campaign, dealing with everything from political strategy to scheduling to fundraising to coordination.

5. Stay Connected at All Levels. Multiple levels of the existing hierarchy were recruited to endorse and support the campaign - from fivestar generals and corporate CEOs to the usual parade of national, state, and local politicians.

Networking and hierarchy each played its appropriate part in Clinton's campaign. But will history remember Bill Clinton as the "Network President"? If he ultimately depends only on the power of his personal networks, the answer is no. If he extends his personal networking strength to encompass an organizational networking strategy, the answer is yes. The Clinton administration will fail to achieve its potential if it cannot activate the TeamNet Factor within a federal bureaucracy that interacts with business, labor, education, myriad other special interests, and ultimately all the people and the world.

Chinese Students' Network

Since we began our research on networking in 1979, we have corresponded with networkers in more than 70 countries and have observed networking grow from a local grass-roots activity to a global mainstream activity.

Nowhere was the growing importance of networking clearer than in the spring of 1989 in Beijing. There, Hu Yaobang, a Chinese reform leader much admired by China's long-standing democracy movement, died. At the same time, Mikhail Gorbachev, the symbol of communist reform, landed in Beijing, making the first Soviet state visit since Nikita Khrushchev's trip in 1959.

Reporters who traveled to China from all over the world to cover the Gorbachev visit found a completely different story unfolding before their eyes. In response to the death of Hu Yaobang, the Chinese university students and supporters of the country's pro-democracy movement - at least a million strong - occupied Tiannanmen Square. No one ordered them to come there, and the government didn't want them to stay. Spontaneously, the students arrived from everywhere, and before they knew it, they were international heroes, standing in front of television cameras and being interviewed by the world's press.

Communication exploded: wall posters, newsletters, radios, bull-horns, cassettes, photocopiers, video, fax, cellular telephones, computers. Universities, businesses, and even government offices in China allowed their fax machines to send and receive. Foreign corporations with operations in China permitted the use of their computers to send electronic mail messages. International telephone calls in and out of China increased dramatically. It was perhaps the largest political demonstration in human history and certainly the most high-tech one.

Suddenly, the Army opened fire on unarmed demonstrators, killing many. As the shooting continued, survivors ran back and forth to telephones. Eyewitnesses phoned out accounts all around the world. Reporters switched on their cellular telephones in Beijing and broadcast live, and the world was watching.

The China story underscored the potential power unleashed at the intersection of people and technology networks, culminating in an epic clash between raw hierarchy and a democracy movement. It also showed how the voluntary response by individuals directly plugs into participation in the great events of our time.

Networking Teams of Nations

The empires and superpowers of the Industrial Age are losing their hegemony. In the early 1990s, the Soviet empire has disaggregated internally and externally. Japan and other Asian countries are on the rise. The European Community is coming of age. The leaders of the world are addressing concerns that they can only resolve on a global basis: the interlocked economy, global warming, ozone depletion, AIDS, nuclear proliferation.

If there is not to be one world government, or one or two dominant superpowers, what is a mode of world governance that will work? With the little-noticed death of the internationalist dream of a One World Government in the past few decades, there is a pregnant pause in history, while we await a new vision of global governance.

The emergence of networks of nations is upon us. This vision of the future sees multiple international networks where the members are sovereign nations. Each nation integrates into the global whole and yet remains an independent entity and substantially self-reliant.

Networks are natural for nations, even very hierarchical ones. They protect sovereignty while increasing cooperation and benefits. TeamNets of nations are peer-based and relationship-rich ways to deal with our world's megaproblems. Myriad international relations at all levels - grass-roots, academic, trade, professional, religious, cultural, and personal - thicken the links among the peoples of the world.

Examples of new boundary-crossing alliances are springing up all over Europe and in many other places as well. The Association of the Eastern Alps, the Association of the Western Alps, the Celtic Arc from Ireland to Western Portugal, the European Port Cities Network, the Working Communities of the Pyrenees, and the Peripheral Maritimes all create economic megaregions.

These multinational TeamNets are fluid collections of business members, sharing some core market purpose. Leaders come from private industry and from public agencies that support the businesses. As loose associations rather than targeted economic engines, they interact with many levels of the private and public sectors.

TeamNets are developing at a rapid rate in countries as historically different as Japan and the United States. Both countries have something to learn from the other about independence and interdependence. Japan's cultural advantage is cooperation, while America's is competition. Japan is learning the game of individual initiative, which conflicts with the nation's cultural prohibition against being different. Americans are learning new ways to cooperate despite their tradition of die-hard independence.

Europe seems to occupy a middle ground. Europe gave birth to Western civilization's emphasis on the individual, yet the continent does not worship individualism as fervently as the United States does. Europe's coordination often comes from the top down, and it involves many small nations, feudal principalities, city-states, and ethnic groups. The European Community is one of the planet's grand experiments at a supra-nation network designed to benefit all its members, national and individual.

The United States, with its mushroorning diversity and its tradition of "rugged individualism," may find it harder than Japan or Europe to bridge differences. But if the heterogeneous United States succeeds, it may show the world how even the greatest extremes can work together productively and profitably.

Clinton's Challenge

Despite the bad press usually reserved for the federal bureaucracy, countless effective networks function among career civil service workers. A highly effective network at the executive level will encourage similar networks within and among departments that can only benefit from working together. If boundary-crossing, horizontal management works for business, it will work for government. Clinton's biggest challenge is not the economy, foreign hot spots, or other domestic issues; rather, it is the ability to organize to do something about these things.

Clinton's two-day pre-inauguration, 300-person teach-in on the economy is precisely the type of getall-the-information-on-the-table session that is the first step in launching TeamNets. The more cross-government, cross-industry, cross-public task forces working on problems, re-organizing the government, and proposing action, the more successful the Clinton administration will be. Participation is a big part of ensuring that the purpose of the team network is clear and meaningiul. Invite everyone; some will show up; a few will stay to do the hard work; everyone feels involved.

Democracies are about self-rule, about involving people in the decisions that affect them, and about free markets of fully informed producers and consumers. Participation is vastly more possible today than it was 200 years ago, both technologically and organizationally. Participation is not just a good idea morally; it is also a good idea that contributes to the bottom line and to the quality of life.

Toward the Global People Network

The world today needs a vision.

We need to believe that, with honest work, our lives can improve, our children can prosper, and our environment can flourish. "Small is beautiful," said economist E.F. Schumacher. "Do more with less," advised design scientist Buckminster Fuller. "Think globally, act locally," counseled Pulitzer Prize winner Rene Dubos, the co-author of Only One Earth.

To this short list, we add a phrase that is the essence of our networking vision: "Global people network."

We live in global times - personally, environmentally, and economically. TeamNets enable people to reach across differences. Networking solves problems in a way that contributes to the metasolution of the global problematique: It enables people to work together better.

We are one planet and many networks - the organizations of the future at work today.

Reproduced with permission from THE FUTURIST, published by the

World Future Society, 7910 Woodmont Avenue, Suite 450

Bethesda, Maryland, 20814, 301/656-8274.


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