Greg Satell

For functional purposes, networks have two salient characteristics: clustering and path length. Clustering refers to the degree to which a network is made up of tightly knit groups while path lengths is a measure of distance—the average number of links separating any two nodes in the network.

We often hear about the need to “break down silos” to create a networked organization, but this too is a misnomer. Silos are functional groups and they need a high degree of clustering to work effectively and efficiently. The real problem in most organizations is that path lengths are too great and information travels too slowly, resulting in a failure to adapt.

The most efficient networks are small-world networks, which have the almost magical combination of high clustering and short path lengths. So silos aren’t the issue—high clustering promotes effective collaboration—the trick is to connect the silos together effectively.

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