SUCCESS IN MANUFACTURING depends on physical things: creating the best product using the best equipment with components assembled in the most efficient way. Success in the service economy is dependent on the human element: picking the right staff members and motivating them correctly. If manufacturing is akin to science, then services are more like the arts.
Motivating people has an extra complexity. Widgets do not know when they are being manipulated. Workers make connections with their colleagues, for social or work reasons, which the management might not have anticipated.
Marissa King is professor of organisational behaviour at the Yale School of Management, where she tries to make sense of these networks. She attempts a classification in her new book, “Social Chemistry: Decoding The Elements of Human Connection”.
The term “networking” has developed unfortunate connotations, suggesting the kind of person who sucks up to senior staff and ignores colleagues who are unlikely to help them win promotion. Ms King cites a study which found that two-thirds of newly promoted professionals were ambivalent about, or completely resistant to, thinking strategically about their social relationships.
From the point of view of productivity, the most important networks are those formed by employees from different…