Popular Culture vs Academic Writing

As with anything the way that I attempt to convey my message is dependent upon the message I am attempting to share, my purpose and my intended audience.  Mullen (2011) noted that persuasion is at the root of what we do as researchers, teachers and with our colleagues.  We are often trying to convince others of our intended purpose (para 1). He went on to explain logos as the use of argumentation to convey data, statistics and information in a logical format.  It’s research based.  Pathos, Mullen noted, serves to stir up people’s emotions and appeal to what Chip and Dan Heath referred to as the elephant sides of our brains while logos appeals to our rational rider.  Lastly, ethos reflects not only how you speak but the individual integrity you bring to what you are saying.  It’s your credibility based on your previous results (para 4-6).

As I look back on the leadership resources that I’ve reviewed they fall into two groups.  Resources that are more easily accessible may be considered more popular reading while highly academic pieces follow more rigorous standards and processes before they are published.  Does one have more value than the other?

I was certainly drawn to the page turning pop culture books.  They not only shared statistics and data they made it come alive by sharing stories and personal experiences.  It appealed to my logos and pathos side.  A powerful combination when you get both the rider and the elephant headed in the same direction.  Over the course of my ETAD program, I came to re-appreciate not only the ideas and data that come from more academic writing, but the rigorous process of publishing respected work.  It appealed to me on both a logos and ethos level; moreover, the academic work often forms the foundation for more popular books.

I noticed frequent citation of each other’s work within the more academic realm including both formal studies and academic articles.  If you hit on the right concept and trace the research back it forms a long chain of reference.   Daniel, Schwier & McCalla (2003), for example, often cited the work of Nahapiet and Ghoshal (1998) with regard to social capital. Even Google has run with this concept by highlighting the number of times an article has been cited.  I’m certainly drawn to the articles that have been cited many times.  It seems to reason, they are more credible.  It doesn’t necessarily mean those articles have the information I’m interested in learning more about.  To apply Nahapiet and Ghoshal’s concept of intellectual capital, the more connections between cited articles the higher the intellectual capital.

In reviewing, Covey’s Speed of Trust references, it’s apparent that Covey wants you to know where the information comes from and he has organized his references by chapter highlighting where he found the material.  His references range from interviews, quotations, conferences (i.e. Stanford Leadership Conference), many articles – some of which included newspapers while others included the Harvard Business Review; he noted formal studies, surveys and annual reports.  Overall, his resources pulled from both popular culture and academic sources as did Chip and Dan Heath’s in the Switch.

Not all of my pop culture reading and articles provided detailed references.  Some simply mentioned the reference in the context of the text.  They clearly stated who the information came from, but a list of references wasn’t included in the copies of the books that I read.  It is something that I’m more aware of since my return to grad school and it makes me wonder why they didn’t note their sources more directly.

McGonigal’s Super Better book, for example, provided a detailed chapter by chapter break down of the science.  In fact, she has even dedicated a website called showmethescience.com to share the research behind living gamefully.  In fact, McGonigal’s references tended toward the more academic side citing numerous journals and academic studies.  In fact, Super Better, itself has been involved in two clinical trials.  So while there is certainly differences in how pop culture authors cite the research, there is ethos embedded into the writing.  Sometimes, however, the ethos may come from their status in society not from the detailed references that they provided.

I did notice that Covey’s work was referenced on a few occasions in other pop culture books.  I think how often some of them cited each other depended on how recently the book was published. With regard to the concepts of leadership, different authors often mentioned the names of respected and well known leaders instead of citing other books about those leaders.

Having learned more about social and intellectual capital, it’s often what the pop culture leadership books are referring to or at least in part.  Again it depends on the message and the particular focus the author is attempting to convey.  As with anything, we need to acknowledge that while the main purpose of writing a book or publishing a study is to better the common good and increase what we as a society know.  There is a financial factor involved.  As a reader, it’s important to actively think about the material you are reading and it sources.  Citizens have to be able to make informed decisions and not just go with what sounds best.

Lastly, it’s about the audience.  Writers compose their text with a specific audience in mind.  Academic writing has a very specific audience and purpose, as does pop culture.  The latter perhaps to make the research more accessible to a larger group of people in a variety of social circles.  Perhaps how you write and the language you use defines the community of practice to which you belong. Shared language and codes help build positive social capital as does following the expectations and norms of the group.  Each group has a different form and standard of what’s considered acceptable when sharing information including different ethical responsibilities.

ETAD 898 has provided a unique opportunity to delve into the topic of leadership from both sides of the spectrum.  While some topics distinctly came up in each realm others were more subtly connected. Communities of practice weren’t formally mentioned in the pop culture books, however, the characteristics were discussed in relation to teams and various groups.  Researching leadership from both perspectives has increased my appreciation for the ongoing need for both types of writing.  In the end it’s about sharing our explicit and if we are willing our tacit knowledge with members of our group.  The more diverse our network and sources the more we can grow our understanding of the world around us.

Mullen, Lincoln. (2011).  How to Persuade – with Ethos, Pathos, or Logos? ProfHacker


An Overview of “Seven Principles for Cultivating Communities of Practice”

An Overview of the
Seven Principles for Cultivating Communities of Practice
By: E. Wenger, R. McDermott & W. M. Synder

Wenger, McDermott and Synder (2002) offered seven practical aspects to consider for maintaining and supporting the growth of voluntary communities of practice.   This is an interesting read focusing on the significance of generating sustainable energy within the group.   Communities of practice (CoPs) are voluntary and Wenger et. al. noted their success over time is dependent up “their ability to generate enough excitement, relevance and value to attract and engage new member” (p. 1)

They put forth seven key principles:

  1. Design for evolution
    – At first you design to attract group members, but overtime the needs and goals of the group will change. To effectively sustain a CoP your design must continue to evolve.
  2. Open a dialogue between inside and outside perspectives
    – A well connected leader will thoroughly understand the needs of a group and be able to invite relevant outside perspectives to help the group grow.
  3. Invite different levels of participation
    – People participate in groups at varying levels of intensity and frequency and that’s okay.  Each group member contributes in their own way.  What I found interesting was Wenger et. al’s ongoing reminders to purposefully design for interaction.  Just as you would place a park bench along a path to invite people to sit and talk, so to must you create those opportunities within the CoP.
  4. Develop both public and private community spaces
    – All interactions both public and private have an opportunity to benefit the group through the interconnected relationships of the community. The authors explained that conversations at formal meetings are important, but don’t underestimate the value of the conversations that happen after the meeting or at the water cooler.  Those formal or informal discussions will enhance the individual relationships within the community.
  5. Focus on value
    – People participate in communities because there is value.  Work to ensure that both formal and informal interactions add value to the community.
    —  What is it that draws people to the group?
  6. Combine familiarity and excitement
    – A familiar routine creates a comfort level which facilitates the sharing of knowledge; however, to remain vibrant a community needs some exciting events that draw members together in a shared sense of adventure.
  7. Create a rhythm for the community
    – All communities have a rhythm, finding the right tempo for your community ensures that people are not running to keep up or stalled when it’s time to move.  Wenger et. al. noted that “the rhythm of the community is the strongest indicator of its aliveness” (p. 7).


  • As an educator, your classroom is an ever evolving community of practice just like a business team working toward a common goal.  Wenger, McDermott and Snyder offered 7 thoughtful practices to keeping the community alive in an easy to read format.  Regardless of your team’s context, reflecting on these principles will provide a framework to better support the growth of your community and in turn grow the social and intellectual capital of your team.

Wenger, E., McDermott, R., & Snyder, W. (2002). Seven Principles for Cultivating Communities of Practice. Retrieved from http://www.askmecorp.com/pdf/7Principles_CoP.pdf

An Overview of “Social capital in virtual learning communities and distributed communities of practice”

An Overview of
Social Capital in Virtual Learning Communities and Distributed Communities of Practice
By B. Daniel, R. Schwier & G. McCalla

A worthwhile read that introduces you to the concept of social capital.  Daniel, Schwier & McCalla (2003) explained the value of social capital in a straightforward way while highlighting the complex factors in play.  Because of the multidimensional nature of social capital, there’s no standard way to measure it.  The authors build on the earlier work of Nahapiet & Ghoshal (1998), which is succinctly pulled together in a thoroughly researched article overviewing the embededness of social capital in our learning communities.  Daniel et. al. (2003) noted the positive benefits of social capital include:

  • increases people’s ability to solve problems
  • people cooperate and collaborate better
  • increased positive interactions within the community
  • increased positive social behaviour
  • it increases team success in both education and business
  • reduces financial risk
  • bridges cultural gaps through the creation of a shared identity

As with anything taken to the extreme social capital can isolate the group by inhibiting the addition of new members or creating a highly cohesive group that begins to deviate from the accepted norms of the larger culture.

While social capital belongs to the individual and can’t be traded, a person’s connections within the group can facilitate the exchange of information.  Each interaction within the group or between groups has the opportunity to increase the knowledge of the group member. Increasing your social capital means following the expectations of the group and contributing to the overall goals of the team.

Daniel et. al. noted the significance of a shared language in generating a strong group identity.  Even shared stories provide opportunities to shape the identity of the group and share rich sets of meaning (p. 6).  The more interactions that take place with positive outcomes the more the trust grows between group members.  Increased trust facilitates increased interactions.

Daniel Schwier and McCalla elaborated on the differences and similarities between virtual learning communities and distributed communities of practice noting the most important characteristic is meaningful collaborative learning.  The stronger the social capital the more exchange of tacit and explicit knowledge.  Individuals learn by sharing, reflecting and making connections to new information, which is enhanced by the sharing of tacit knowledge (p. 12).


We are all part of communities of practice and our willingness to exchange knowledge and learn from others is impacted by our involvement in the group.  Positive social capital strengthens our trust in the group along with the effectiveness of our sharing interactions.  How we are connected to others within a network impacts the knowledge that we have access to which in turn impacts our ability to learn.  Depending on the culture created by group the social capital will either grow and foster more sharing based on the norms and expectations of the group or the effectiveness of the group will begin to decrease.

Whether you are in a classroom or working with a business team, you have to consciously create opportunities to grow social capital.  You need clear norms and expectations so that all group members understand how to participate in order to support the team in reaching their goal. Social capital will influence the quality of the knowledge exchanged and the effectiveness of the team.  When individuals feel comfortable enough to share their tacit knowledge, the entire group benefits from their experience.


Daniel, B. K., Schwier, R. A., & McCalla, G. (2003). Social capital in virtual learning communities and distributed communities of practice. Canadian Journal of Learning and Technology, 29(3), 113–139. Retrieved from http://www.cjlt.ca/index.php/cjlt/article/viewArticle/85

Leadership Connections – A Reflective Look Back

Leadership Concept Map August 2016

Leadership Map PDF                             Video explanation of Map

As I reflect on what leadership means I’m drawn to Kruse’s attempt to define leadership.

“Leadership is a process of social influence, which maximizes the efforts of others, toward the achievement of a goal”
(Keven Kruse, What is Leadership?, 2013)

Leadership is not about your position or title, it’s about the choices you make within your circle of influence.  Covey (2006) explained that you can begin by leading yourself.  Great leaders start by recognizing the value of ongoing professional and personal development. Regardless of whether you are involved in education or in business, it’s about making purposeful choices to help your team work together to reach a goal.  A team can be your friends, family, your educational colleagues, your classroom of students, the people on your home based business team or the people in your department at work.

Leaders are integral members of teams which are similar to communities of practice (CoPs).  Wenger, McDermott and Snyder (2002) noted that CoPs are voluntary, vibrant and productive groups that foster ongoing relationships amongst group members, which builds value and engagement and in turn contributes to social capital. While every reading acknowledged teams or groups or followers, communities of practice was not a common phrase in the popular literature.  The strategies suggested for developing vibrant, voluntary communities of practice are simply good strategies to consider for all teams in any context.

As Stephen M. R. Covey (2006) said “leadership is getting results in a way that inspires trust” (Speed of Trust, p. 40).  Leadership is a multidimensional concept that not only focuses on the task at hand but on how you go about achieving the goal.  It’s like going on a trip.  We all need to be headed to the same destination, but the paths we take and the stops we make along our journey all depend on how we are going to get there.

There’s many ways to reach your destination.  The concept of differentiated learning is based on the idea that we have a common outcome to achieve, but the learning and instructional strategies we use to get there depend on our choices.   You can hop in a car and drive yourself.  Going it alone will eventually get you there, but you may have to make more stops along the way to get everything done.  You could car pool with people that you trust, but that means you have to carefully choose your team so they can fit in the vehicle.  You could hop on the company bus, train or plane.  There’s lots of ways to get results, but not every path will be as efficient or support the coevolution of social and intellectual capital.

In a Good To Great article, Collins (2001) explained that it’s all about getting the right people in the right seats on the bus.  As the bus driver (leader), you have to start with WHO is on the bus.  The right people will bring a diverse and unique set of intellectual capital with them. It also means that you have to get the wrong people off the bus.  Building strong social capital within a group starts by creating a culture of excellence where individuals are motivated to be part of strong, dynamic team.

Part of creating a culture means defining the boundaries. Dr. Henry Cloud (2013) explained we have to lead in a way that people’s brains can follow.  You won’t foster strong, interpersonal connections and create a trusting environment by creating fear.  You have to keep the team focused on their goal, inhibit the barriers that will distract them and provide the opportunity to create routines in their working memories. Sinek (2014) agreed noting the importance of creating the circle of safety and how all of our actions as group members trigger brain based responses that either reinforce the relationships or create trust gaps.

Nahapiet and Ghoshal (1998) referred to the organizational advantage of companies that have both high intellectual and social capital as creating innovative, trusting and cohesive teams.  While trust is not the only component of building social capital, trust was mentioned by Nahapiet & Ghoshal (1998);  Daniel, McCalla and Schwier (2003); Wenger, McDermott and Snyder (2002); McGonigal(2015); Sinek (2014); Cloud (2013); the Heaths (2010); and most definitely by Covey (2006) in The Speed of Trust.  Trust was the common thread in the majority of reading that I did.

Covey (2006) gave specific trust building behaviours to practice.  Cloud (2013) discussed how trust permeates the culture you create.  It “is the starting point … [that] makes it all work” (Boundaries for Leaders, p. 171). Both McGonigal (2015) and Sinek (2014) focused on the body’s response to hormones like oxytocin which help foster trusting relationships. Trust is an integral part of creating healthy social capital, which in turn creates a strong, leadership culture.  As Covey (2006) stated and Nahapiet & Ghoshal (1998) noted, when trust goes up, the costs both financial and relationship go down. Trust increases the likelihood of knowledge exchanges which also generate intellectual capital.

Daniel, Schwier & McCalla (2003) cited Nahapiet & Ghoshal’s (1998) different aspects of social capital.

  • Structural – how members connect with other people in the community; how does information spread (Daniel, et al., 2003, p. 5).
    • Here’s where I see an interesting connection to Gladwell’s work in The Tipping Point.  Although he asked what causes a word of mouth epidemic, the question is essentially the same as asking how information is dispersed through a person’s network.  Gladwell (2006) talked about “connectors”, the people who are linked to many different people in a variety of social circles. While the articles on social capital didn’t mention the common links in the network, I would propose that the efficient dissemination of information flows out through key connectors with in the community.  Gladwell (2006) likened it to the game the six degrees of Kevin Bacon. While we live in a social media age, there are still key influencers online that we all follow or are connected to through our online network.
    • Next Gladwell (2006) mentioned the “mavens,” individuals that are extremely knowledgeable about specific topics.  They are your go to people.  When a maven answers your questions there’s a high probability you are going to follow their advice because you trust them and know that they are suggesting the best option for you.  Networks high in social capital will include mavens and connectors.  Both have a high knowledge capital and are willing to share their tacit knowledge with the group.
    • Finally, Gladwell (2006) explained the “persuaders” are the members of the group that can change people’s minds.  They are able to convincingly share and spread ideas.
  • Next Nahapiet and Ghoshal (1998) noted the relational dimension.  There are 4 components: Trust which we noted the value of earlier; norms; obligations: and identification.
    • Both Covey (2006)  and Cloud (2013) noted the importance of clear boundaries for a team.  People need to know where they are going, clarify what’s expected and be supported by a culture that trusts them to get it done.
    • Chip and Dan Heath (2010) explained you have to shape the path.  You have to create the environment which not only encourages people to make the change but shapes their choices. The Heaths’ strongly emphasized the significance of a shared identity.  In fact, they noted it’s our go to decision making model.  We may reason out our decision using the rational model, but when in doubt the elephant wins and we decide in favor of our identity.  Avolio, Walumbwa and Weber (2009) agreed that activating an identity to which people can relate, helps to build a shared identity (p. 427).
    • Gladwell (2006) likened this notion to the broken windows effect.   We are shaped by our environment and the people in it.  Culture is how we make sense of the world and our behaviour shifts according to the environment and context in which we live and work.
    • Daniel, Schwier & McCalla (2003) also noted the value of network ties and configuration as essential aspects of how we access information, which connect back to Gladwell’s connectors, mavens and persuaders.
  • Lastly, the cognitive dimension is based on building meaningful connections in a shared context.  A shared language helps teams facilitate the exchange of information which creates an opportunity to build intellectual capital. Daniel, Schwier and McCalla (2003) noted the significance of shared narratives (p. 6).  Just as Carmine Gallo (2014) explained in Talk Like TED, stories not only help us organize the world, they are given preferential treatment in our memory.  Nahapiet & Ghoshal (1998) also highlighted how stories are a powerful way to not only transfer explicit knowledge, but if you look closely at how the story flows the tacit knowledge is embedded, as well.
    • Bolden, Gosling, Marurano and Dennison (2003) pointed out that although there are many different leadership theories, there is no one size fits all leadership style and each theory lends itself to different styles, followers and situations (p. 8).  Knowing what style to apply depends on your context and situation and it’s an important part of responding to the needs of your team

Melrose, Park and Perry (2015) reminded us of the value of articulating our personal philosophy.  Before we can decide what or how to reach our destination, we have to understand why we chose that teaching approach in the first place.  Reflecting on your personal philosophy of learning and leadership is an important part of growing as a leader.  We all have a go to framework that not only helps us organize our learning, but it’s what we default to in times of stress.  In his TED Talk – How great leaders inspire action, Simon Sinek explained

people don’t buy what you do they buy why you do it.

Whether it’s selling a product, implementing a change or teaching a new skill.  People don’t buy in because you told them to, they are drawn to your why.  Just think about the teachers and leaders that have inspired you. It was likely their genuine enthusiasm and leadership style that you connected with most.   A strong understanding of content is important but unless people understand why the concept is important, it’s just data.

It doesn’t mean that your why or your personal philosophy of leadership or learning won’t change.  They will continue to evolve.  What’s important is that you are an active part of the evolution.  It’s the small actions each day that become the habits shaping your path and in turn your life.  Make sure you are becoming the leader you want to be not just the one that happened.

Sometimes the smallest actions say the most.  Body language and non-verbal communication surfaced on several occasions during my research.  From Amy Cuddy’s (2012) research on how body language can change the hormones released in our body and in turn how our brains think to McGonigal’s (2015) physical resilience power-up strategies, body language is embedded into social capital without us even realizing it.  Our brains will judge within seconds whether members of our network are trustworthy or not.  It’s not even something we need to consciously decide.  Our primitive brain is always working to protect us.  Sinek (2014) pointed out if the trust begins to fail our brain chemistry changes and we are no longer focused on the team goal but rather our individual survival.  Ruggieri, Boca and Garro (2013) noted face to face leadership is established through “body language, vocal inflection, eye contact and clothing” (p.98), which is reinforced based on the group’s response.

Winkler (2010) mentioned in several theories the results a leader produces are dependent upon the a group’s favorable response.  In the idiosyncrasy credit theory of leadership, for example, a leader rises as they gain credit for upholding the social norms and expectations of the group.  Once they become a leader their credits enable them step outside the boundaries and push the group in innovative directions, but only as long as the group finds the results favorable.  Too many withdrawals in your leadership credits means you will lose control. Similarly, Covey (2006) discussed the significance of making deposits not just withdrawals in your trust account.    While Winkler (2010) didn’t directly define the concept of social capital, it permeated the majority of contemporary theories that he discussed.

As I re-read my Super Better post wondering how I was going to connect gaming and resilience to leadership, I was drawn back to McGonigal’s (2015) keys connections between our thinking and behaviours that contribute to post-traumatic and post-ecstatic growth.

  • Learn to benefit find connected to Chip and Dan Heath’s (2010) find the bright spots which pairs with the strength based leadership focus.
  • Finding the heroic story encouraged us to connect to our story and how we identify with our network.
  • Cultivating connectedness builds relationships.
  • Being flexible and adopting a challenge mindset will help you and your team find the best solution rather than the one you think should work.
  • Lastly, taking committed action links to following through with what you say you are going to do (Cloud (2013) & Covey (2006)).

All of which help build social capital.

While gaming may not be your thing, the value in Super Better lies in the small, achievable challenges that build resilience. If you are focused on developing a team of strong leaders, building these strategies into your community of practice will not only strengthen the resilience of the individuals, but the team as well.  As Collins (2001) said, you need the right people on the bus and then it doesn’t matter what detours you encounter the team will make it happen.

What about e-leadership?

Avolio et. al. (2009) noted that e-leadership comes with its own unique set of challenges based on the physical distance, as well as, the type of technology; moreover, face to face is not the same as virtual environments (p. 440).  Ruggieri, Boca and Garro (2013) explained that online transformational leadership encouraged increased communication, self awareness and increased levels of team identification.  By focusing on more than just the transactions that occur within a group, transformational leaders build the skills of their followers in multiple dimensions. In short, they foster the growth of well rounded, leaders working towards a common goal.

As I reflected in an early post.  I learned the most from online classes lead by transformational leaders where we were encouraged to share our ideas without the fear of being wrong.  The true building of intellectual capital is in the sharing of and reflecting on ideas.  You don’t grow unless you share, make connections and think more deeply about your experiences.   All of which rarely happens without a positive, social capital rooted firmly in trusting relationships.  As Sinek (2014) noted, “the people always have the power” (p. 67) and the true power lies in realizing that we are all responsible for protecting the circle of safety.  The circle is what supports the coevolution of social and intellectual capital which creates an organizational advantage (Nahapiet & Ghoshal (1998); Daniel, Schwier & McCalla (2003)).

Driscoll (2005) cited Wenger (1998) as she noted how our learning trajectory changes over time.  Whether you are on an inbound trajectory headed toward full group participation as an insider or sustaining relationships in related communities of practice as a broker or on an outbound course, people are always interacting with communities of practice in different ways (Psychology of Learning for Instruction, p.168-169).  Driscoll (2005) noted the work of Lave & Wenger (1991) when she explained that becoming an insider takes time.  Newcomers start on the periphery and through their interactions with oldtimers (full participants) slowly progress toward full participation.  As new members join the group, the once newcomer becomes a mentor as they move closer to becoming an old timer (Driscoll, 2005, p. 166).

Learning trajectory is an interesting way to think about home based business entrepreneurs.  There’s a strong core group that is very active and in some cases includes the founders.  As teams grow, newcomers learn the business and progress toward full inbound participation, but just as often as new people join others are on their outbound path.  It’s an ever evolving community of practice held together by the core members.  As Driscoll (2005) shared with reference to the work of Lave and Wenger (1991), there is no illegitimate peripheral participation.  Access to most specific home based business groups requires actual membership before detailed sharing of knowledge occurs.  Whether people choose to engage and move from legitimate peripheral to full participation, depends upon the social and intellectual capital within the group.  The community of practice needs to welcome the new members and in turn new members must choose their level of participation (Psychology of Learning for Instruction, p. 167-166).

While it may at times be necessary for someone to actually take the lead, it doesn’t mean that all members can’t practice positive leadership.  We all have a choice to participate in and help strengthen the team.  The strength of a team lies not in in one person but in the complex interconnections between the explicit and tacit knowledge shared by the group.  Perhaps in the end effective leadership is less about the person leading and more about creating the conditions in which we can all learn to lead.  Avolio et. al. (2009) discussed leadership as an emergent state in which team members collectively lead each other (p.431).  Providing opportunities for each person’s strengths to contribute to and lead the team when appropriate creates a unified and cohesive group that can take on any challenge.

References available on our Leadership Resources page.


A Review of “Social Captial, Intellectual Capital, and the Organizational Advantage”

A Review of 
Social Captial, Intellectual Capital, and the Organizational Advantage
By J. Nahapiet & S. Ghoshal

This article considers the value of social capital in providing an organizational advantage, which is rooted in the idea of “the significance of relationships as a resource for social action” (p. 242).  Nahapiet & Ghoshal (1998) define social capital as:

“the sum of the actual and potential resources embedded within, available through, and derived from the network of relationships possessed by an individual or social unit.  Social capital thus comprises both the network and the assets that may be mobilized through that network.”
(p. 243)

Nahapiet & Ghoshal broke social capital into 3 clusters:

  • Structural embeddedness – the overall structure of the network; the connections between people. (p.244)
  • Relational embeddedness – the actual relationships that connect the different people; how the relationships affect their actions; who you know and how you know them; they are behavioural (p. 244).
    • Key aspects also include trust, trustworthiness, norms, sanctions, obligations, expectations, identity and identification (p.244).
  • Cognitive dimension – the symbols, systems of meaning and how we interpret things is common to a group (p. 244).  It includes the shared language that Daniel, McCalla & Schwier (2002) referenced.

Nahapiet & Ghoshal (1998), along with Daniel, McCalla & Schwier (2002), all noted that “social capital is owned jointly by the parties in a relationship” (p. 244).  No one person has all the social capital.  To add to it’s complexity social capital is something that the individual invests in and builds up within the network.  “It has value in use” (p.244) but it can’t be traded or exchanged.

It reminds me of my transition from a high school teacher and differentiated instruction facilitator within one building to my role as a learning consultant within the school division. Within my home school, I had build up 13 years of credit with both staff and students.  My interactions with the larger network of people was relatively limited. As you grow and change networks you have to reinvest in building your social capital.  It’s obvious in a building when a teacher has social capital.  They can look at a student and the behaviour will stop, when you don’t have the ‘street cred’ in that building, the students just look at you and wonder why you’re looking at them funny.

Nahapiet & Ghoshal (1998) also noted that social capital makes it possible to achieve goals that would not have been possible as an individual.  A strong community of practice with high social capital will produce better results at lower costs (p. 244-245), which is very similar to Covey’s (2006) motto that when trust goes up, speed goes up and costs go down.

Social capital has been shown to encourage cooperative behaviours, which has the potential to lead to new associations between group members along with increased innovation (Nahpapiet & Ghoshal, 1998, p. 245).  As Daniel, McCalla & Schwier (2002) noted, so to did Nahapiet & Ghoshal, social capital is a balancing act. It has the potential to be very positive within an organization; however, if the group becomes so strong that it’s hard for new members to access or integrate into then it can begin to have detrimental effects.   If the group takes on a mind of it’s own then the group becomes more prone to blindly following along rather than building on the strengths and diversity of it’s team (p. 245).

Intellectual capitalrepresents a valuable resource and a capability for action based in knowledge and knowing” (Nahapiet & Ghosal, 1998, p. 245).  This includes four aspects:

  • Individual explicit knowledge – the facts and concepts that are available to us in our personal memory framework
  • Individual tacit knowledge – it’s what becomes automatic to us based on our knowledge and skills.  It’s the knowledge in our heads that we have processed, made connections with and organized according to our experiences.
  • Social Explicit knowledge – the objective knowledge that is known to the people in the group
  • Social Tacit knowledge – the understanding embedded into what happens in that community.  It’s the unwritten knowledge and connections that bind teams together and make institutions unique.
    (p. 247).

Knowledge creation often involves the exchange of information between people or people learning new information (p. 248).  First, there must be an opportunity for knowledge to be exchanged, then people must anticipate the value that will come from it and be motivated by this prospect. Lastly, Nahapiet & Ghoshal referred to the absorptive capacity.  You have to be ready to recognize, incorporate and use the new information to move forward (p. 249-250).

Intellectual capital grows when there are opportunities for information to flow within the network.  This flow is dependent upon your connections and your ability to receive valuable information and know who to share it with in a timely fashion.  Gladwell (2006) illustrated this concept when he retold the story of Paul Revere’s famous ride and the other guy’s less effective attempt.  The more referral ties within a network the more opportunities for quality exchanges (Nahapiet & Ghoshal, 1998, p. 252).  When the authors discussed network configuration and the importance of  having “a player with a network rich in information benefits [along with one who] has contacts established in places where useful bits of information are likely to air and who will provide a reliable flow of information” (p. 252), it reminds me of Gladwell’s (2006) connectors, mavens and persuaders.  These people are important in distributing and ensuring the flow of information.  Nahapiet & Ghoshal also noted the importance of bringing together diverse people within the network because significant creation of intellectual capital happens within those diverse connections (p.252).  Similarly, Gladwell explained the importance of connectors in bringing together people from different social circles.

“Intellectual capital is a social artifact and …knowledge and meaning are always embedded in a social context” (p.253) created and sustained through the relationships of the community. A shared language helps us connect and understand, while shared codes help us organize information.  Language helps us make sense of the world around us.  Shared narratives also play a significant role in facilitating transfer of knowledge often with tacit knowledge embedded into the stories (p. 254).

Trust is the belief that the “results of somebody’s intended action will be appropriate from our point of view” (as noted by Misztal – Nahapiet & Ghoshal, 1998, p. 254).  To trust includes becoming vulnerable, believing in the other person’s good intent, their competence, capabilities, reliability, and openness (p. 254). Trust in turn builds cooperation and cooperation builds trust.  The more trusting a relationship the more people are willing to risk in the knowledge that they share (p. 255), which leads to more opportunities to grow the intellectual capital.  Positive group norms, clear obligations and expectations facilitate people identifying with the group.  When people choose to become one of the group their identity changes, which in turn makes them more likely to exchange information and support the goals of the team (p. 256).

The authors reminded that social capital takes time to grow and requires that people are connected to each other in meaningful ways.  Interdependence will promote more interactions, which increases social capital.  Clear social, legal and financial boundaries will also create a sense of closure.  A defined group will grow more social and intellectual capital than an open group.

While social capital fosters the development of intellectual capital, the same can be said for knowledge supporting the development of social interactions. Nahapiet & Ghoshal explained that the cooveolution of social and intellectual capital lead to a strong organizational advantage.  Fostering the development of both types will build a stronger team.  Both are enhanced by the formal and informal interactions that happen during the day and the development of a shared identity.  Opportunities to interact and create shared stories strengthens the ties between individuals.  Nahapiet & Ghoshal asserted that the true organizational advantage comes when organizations commit to strengthening and continuing to maintain the the interrelationships of their teams(p. 259-260).

Step back for a moment and think about the communities and teams in which you participate. There is a constant ebb and flow of people coming into and leaving the group.  While some maybe more stable in membership than others the importance of developing strong interrelationships is essential in increasing the social and intellectual capital of the group. The more a person connects to the group, the longer they stay involved and add to the shared capital.

Nahapiet, J., & Ghoshal, S. (1998). Social capital, intellectual capital, and the organizational advantage. The Academy of Management Review, 23(2), 242–266. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/259373