Harnessing Your Staff’s Informal Networks

by Richard McDermott and Douglas Archibald

IF YOUR SMARTEST EMPLOYEES are getting together to solve problems and develop new ideas on their own, the best thing to do is to stay out of their way, right? Workers can easily share insights electronically, and they often don’t want or appreciate executive oversight. Well, think again. Though in-house networks of experts—or “communities of practice”—were once entirely unofficial, today they are increasingly integrated into companies’ formal management structures.

Independent, off-the-grid communities have proliferated in recent years, and many companies have counted on them to deliver creative solutions to challenges that bridge functional gaps. But in the ...

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