From atomism to networks in social systems

David Snowden (The Cynefin Centre, Marlborough, UK)

The Learning Organization

ISSN: 0969-6474

Publication date: 1 December 2005



The purpose of this article is to focus on the role of networks in organizations as a critical aspect of knowledge management and learning processes.


The article has built on an established technique, namely SNA, by shifting from individuals to identities and then to abstractions.


By making the shifts identified above, a solid and tool‐rich body of research is used as a base on which to build, but in effect the focus is on using the network intelligence rather than assemblies of atomistic individual intelligences: the whole is greater than the sum of the parts, but only if one understands it as a whole.


The article has focused on problem resolution, but the technique also shows potential as a generic innovation tool, and as a possible model to create an alternative mechanism for the distribution of funding within organizations including governments.



Snowden, D. (2005), "From atomism to networks in social systems", The Learning Organization, Vol. 12 No. 6, pp. 552-562.

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Copyright © 2005, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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