“Who did you TWEET?” Well…it’s networking in the 21st century

Mina Amer

One skill that teachers can learn from students is the art of networking in the 21st century. Since the creation of social media, you can send a Tweet to anyone and anywhere. Regardless of the person’s title or professional position, you can have access to their knowledge, and they can have access to yours. This sharing of information seems to have led to a dissemination of what was once known as the organizational hierarchy.

The structure of information sharing is changing significantly within organizations, both in the public and private sector. Some of our students, also known as generation Y or the millennial babies, have learned the freedom to reach out and network beyond their organizational familiarity. Moreover, linear networking is a great way to collaborate, learn, and mentor with others. In the past, this would have never been possible. The environment no longer enables the acquisition of knowledge.

This form of networking can be coined as “linear.” Therefore, there is a network with no real hierarchy and people from all backgrounds are sharing their knowledge amongst each other. Students can search for their teacher’s Instagram, who can send a Tweet to a parent, who can email the superintendent, and the web grows from there. No one has asked anyone to contact a superior, yet social media brings the liberty to do so. The usual protocol is not observed.

“Engage with all levels of the organization,” said John Howitt, Superintendent of education with the Greater Essex County District School Board in Windsor, Ontario. “There is a significant change in the structure of information. The chain of command and information sharing is flattening to a linear model as opposed to a traditional model.”

Generation Y has been setting a precedence as a generation that wants to network linearly as collaborators of a community that transfers knowledge from one to another. The idea that they need permission to contact someone is quickly becoming obsolete because they can reach out to anyone through social media. Therefore, why bother asking anyone if they can contact someone in a position of superiority since generation Y is raised with the notion that they have access to everyone and their resources.

“It is important to engage with all levels of the organization,” said Howitt. “In a traditional model of networking, you would go through your immediate supervisor to obtain information. However, we are seeing many examples of skipping those traditional steps in the chain of command and creating a linear network of information sharing”

In their article “Contradictory or compatible? Reconsidering the “trade-off” between brokerage and closure on knowledge sharing” Bill Mc Evily and Ray Reagans, both professors of Management, state that knowledge sharing is a fundamental source of competitive advantage. They describe how social networks are thought to play an important role in knowledge sharing but are presumed to create a trade-off such that a network can be optimized to promote either knowledge-seeking or knowledge-transfer.

Generation Y is setting a precedent that could change the way we interact with superiors and the value that a person, whether student, employee, or superior brings to any organization. Perhaps society at large will become aware that they no longer need to reach through multiple layers to attain information, yet they can go directly to the source. These new circumstances may forever alter the way future generations view hierarchy and how they acquire information - taking control of the way they communicate, their success, and knowledge acquisition. Simply networking linearly -sans protocol. There was a time when all of these advantages did not exist. Now students can teach something to the teacher.

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