Sunday, December 10, 2006

Requisite Connectivity

Requisite connectivity is the state of having robust and reliable communication and/or transportation media/modes, with operable alternative work-around options, so that contact may be initiated or maintained at the rate, richness and intensity required for a given task or social outcome. Too little connectivity can obviously be a problem. Most of us have experienced the frustrations of working from home without technical support, travelling abroad where your cell phone doesn’t work, and so on. Indeed, for some, the difficulties of keeping connected are simply more trouble than they are worth. Most of us, however, struggle to stay connected, even though it is not always. Fortunately, like social networks, where thin networks can work as well as dense ones, ‘thin’ connective density (number of links) can be sufficient in many circumstances.

So, in terms of connectivity, more is not necessarily better. Indeed, we can think of connectivity and security as opposite ends of a continuum, whereby highly connective systems bring higher risk of hacking into technical systems and/or intrusions into our private lives. We might call this the weakness of strong ties. Rather than a single ideal level of connectivity, what most of us seek is not necessarily more and more connectivity, but requisite connectivity, that is enough connectivity for our intended purposes, but not so much that it undermines performance, invades our personal space and/or produces stress and anxiety. It involves the interplay of both technical and social systems, including human agency (choice, free will) to connect or disconnect.

Requisite connectivity is particularly important for organisations relying on cross-cultural communication for successful collaboration in a global economy. Ultimately, we still need to manage distance and isolation better. Moreover, with our history (until recently) of high uptake of information and communication technologies and our distant location, New Zealand could take the lead in understanding the potential and limitations of connective technologies.

Since 1999, I have been probing the literatures of globalization, the sociology of work, socio-technical systems, technology adoption, human-computer interaction, virtual teams, distributed work, and social networks. I have forged relationships with scholars at Boston College, Carnegie Mellon University, Duke University, University of California, Irvine, and the University of Washington, Seattle. See ‘Who’s Who in Understanding Distance’ on this site.

With the basic theoretical foundations in place, I have begun conducting empirical research, beginning with data on distributed leadership from the New Zealand Leadership Institute and data to come from the Global Executive MBA programme at Duke University. I have manuscripts under review in top journals and have also started a book on the subject of ‘Managing Distance and Isolation,’ which investigates how organizations compete from far away places, like New Zealand.


Luke Fernandez said...

I like your phrase 'requisite connectivity'. It deserves endorsement as an alternative to the philosophy of 'digital maximalism' that William Powers finds embedded in most devices these days.

Darl Kolb said...

Hi Luke,
Thank you for your comment and sorry for not responding earlier. I wish you all the best in your work.
Kind regards,