Most companies put a great deal of emphasis on hierarchy, who is in charge of whom. While the pecking order may affect salaries and titles on business cards, it is less relevant than you might expect when it comes to making ideas happen.
A study done in one large Fortune 500 company asked employees to complete a survey about who they go to for help. Whether it was a computer question, a finance inquiry, or something about the history of the business, employees were asked to provide the names of their “go-to” people.
Once the data was collected, researchers mapped it out to graphically illustrate the flows of information. It quickly became clear that there were various particularly active “nodes” of information. Scattered throughout the organization, a handful of people functioned as the dominant go-to people that everyone else relied upon. Surprisingly, there was no correlation between the “nodes” and those with the most seniority or experience within the company.
One executive who looked at the data reportedly remarked on how scary it was to think that, in a periodic round of lay-offs, the company could easily lose critical nodes of information that it had never fully valued or formally accounted for.
Some of the most successful leaders of change in organizations focus less on hierarchy and more on who has the best information. Ultimately, quality information leads to quality decisions. If you are able to identify the nodes of information in your organization, you will be able to lead with great understanding. We should all stop looking up and start looking around us for the people who seem to always know the answers.
***This article is adapted from the research and writing of Scott Belsky and the Behance team. Behance runs the Behance Creative Network , the Action Method project management application, the Creative Jobs List, and develops knowledge, products, and services that help creative professionals make ideas happen.