“A network is formed when three or more people come together. And now with networks everywhere, understanding and influencing them becomes an essential skill for all of us”, says Paul Hughes.


During my presentations I draw live as I speak. There are a number of reasons why I do this and one of them is to keep a human touch in each presentation. I find that all too often it is possible to get lost in technology and become confused that technology is an end rather than a means to an end. So I believe it is important to keep a human touch in a world that is driven more and more by technology.



Even though it is thanks to technology that so many networks exist today, networks in themselves are very human things. So while technology helps to form networks, it does not define them. What defines them is something much more human. Therefore, I believe the skills needed to understand networks are not technical skills but human skills. 


To help clarify this is the accompanying Visual Statement that shows a trilogy of networks, all based on human qualities:


The Network of Hands

The first network we can consider is the Network of Hands. This is about any tool or technology that is connected to help multiply the effects of our hands. This network blossomed first during the Industrial Revolution, where machines were created to weave thousands of items at the same time, rather than one set of hands weaving one item at a time, for example. And I believe the benefit of this network, the multiplying effect of our hands, will be redefined once more by the development of the Internet of things. Our tools will become ‘smart’ and start communicating with each other, making them even more efficient and effective. Many organizations still have the Network of Hands at the center of their operating model and while it is clear that certain industries are built on this network, I believe all industries will benefit by also embracing the next network…


The Network of Heads

The second network is the Network of Heads. This is about any tool or technology that shares information and connects ideas to create knowledge. We can understand how this network blossomed with the development of the internet to form what was called an Information Economy. Which in turn created ‘knowledge workers’, who may or may not do anything with their hands and instead embraced the concept that ‘knowledge is power’.

In my travels I still hear the majority of organizations talk about the power of information and how the Knowledge Economy is at the center of what they do. So I find much of my time is spent in helping them shift mentalities to understand that only meaningful knowledge is powerful. This calls on us to embrace the next network…


The Network of Hearts 

The third network is the Network of Hearts. This is about how tools and technology are used to create meaning. It is about offering products and services that are meaningful. It is about creating meaningful work. And, on a higher level, it is about inviting others to find their own meaning in what you offer. There is greater and greater demand from the public for meaningful products and services, and I find this positive because ‘demand drives innovation’. So if organizations are lacking an internal motivation for innovation, they will soon be stimulated by an external one. Also organizations are called upon to create meaningful work, which again I believe is a positive dynamic, because when work is meaningful productivity and innovation are enhanced. Indeed I believe it is through meaningful work that our next economy will be formed. However, what is meaningful work? And what are meaningful products and services? We may or may not be able to answer this, however our employees and clients can for sure. So to really engage the Network of Hearts we need to invite others to find their own meaning in what we offer. Here organizations can become ‘curators of meaning’. Not the givers of meaning, not the creators of meaning, but the curators of meaning. A curator builds a context for others to participate in the making of meaning.


1+1+1 = 111

Three networks, all connected, with the greatest power coming from the synergy of the three. So it is about finding the right balance and finding a ‘sweet spot’ between the three. Our identity and our reputation is defined by how we engage with others, through their hearts, heads, and hands. So whatever industry you are in, you can ask yourself: how can I expand my work to include all three networks? And, how does my work embrace the heart, engage the head and give action to the hand?