The Value of Horizontal Networks

As posted in the Graziadio Voice Blog on February 25, 2011.  Co-authored with Hannah Plaxen, MBA Candidate 2012.

One of the many activities you should become engaged in during your MBA journey is developing your social network.  In strategy class, we discuss social capital as the network of relationships that individuals have throughout the organization as well as with customers and suppliers.  Leveraging social capital gives you access to key contacts for the success of your future, your company, and in entrepreneurial endeavors.

Your horizontal network is comprised of the people you barely or somewhat know.  By contrast, your vertical network is comprised of the people you know very well or have met in person.  For example: I (Brett) don’t know Hannah, but I read her personal blog and contributions on Graziadio Voice.  We’ve never met face to face, but we share some common interests, such as business school, sharing knowledge, and Pepperdine.  To each other, we are weak ties, but each of us separately has many strong ties in each of our respective vertical networks.  The real value to engaging with your horizontal network is the access you have to many other vertical networks.

Why would you want to expand your horizontal network?  The Corporate Lattice, by Cathleen Benko and Molly Anderson discuss how building your lattice, “is simply a more adaptive construct chock full of options for how to view and enable career success, which makes it better suited to align with the changing needs and expectations of today’s workplace.”  Simply put: the old model has given way to a more modern, adaptable one.  Tapping into your horizontal network will give you access to “weak ties” that are more likely to help you realize new opportunities than through your “strong ties.”

Your Personal Objective to networking matters.  You can easily talk to the people you already know, say on Facebook (strong ties), or you can venture out, build you network and meet some new contacts (weak ties).  The best place to do this at Pepperdine is on Yammer.  Yammer is Pepperdine’s internal social network that ties all its participants together on one platform, in one place, safely and securely.  All students have the potential to connect with one another across this platform and gain value from contributions of its members.  The richness of the experience depends completely on your participation and sharing.

Stay tuned for a future article on how the value of Yammer is an easy portal to expanding your horizontal network.

In-person horizontal networking often feels like the most insincere thing you can do, especially when you get friend requests on Facebook or LinkedIn, and you question whether or not you will even see this person again.  The truth is, you may never, but with the whole span of their world shared now on their profiles, the commonalities you didn’t even know you had can come to the surface.  For example: my current internship (Hannah) was driven by a LinkedIn connection through an entertainment industry networking group during my “former life.”  Rob and I had met once in person and learned about each other through this networking group, similar to a Yammer forum or LinkedIn group.  Trust was built through the reputation we each had with our shared vertical networks.  Therefore, when I reached out regarding the consulting practice at his company, he actually offered me the internship position before I had a chance to really inquire.  Now I see Rob all the time and he has worked his way into my vertical network.  The activity we engaged in with our horizontal activities built up our personal brand equity without even knowing it.

The National network often feels irrelevant, especially if you expect to stay local forever, like I assumed I would (Hannah).  But the truth is, nothing is guaranteed, and when I came back this weekend from the Sony Case Competition, I found myself thankful that I had established additional horizontal relationships with people all over the country.  First of all, I have strong vertical connections in a variety of states, relationships in industries that don’t necessarily benefit me at this time, but I love them anyway.  These new, spread out connections may know people in Los Angeles, people that are more valuable then my own vertical connections.  Sometimes, we have blinders on to people who aren’t in our field, our city, or even at our career experience threshold.  However, these connections, the tiny threads beneath the surface that spin together into a thick strand and eventually dramatic fabric… these connections are the ones worth fostering in whatever way we can.

What I Have Learned on Yammer

As posted in the Graziadio Voice Blog on March 10, 2011.

For someone who is usually on the front end of the adoption curve, I missed the very beginning of Yammer’s splash down at Pepperdine.  While the true Pioneers have been “Yammering” for some time now, I decided to jump on this past December after seeing this quick, informative, and entertaining video after presenting at the new student orientation.

After Yammering for a mere 90 days, I can assuredly tell you that the water feels nice and you should jump in!  The party only gets better as more guests arrive, so for those who like to arrive fashionably late, we’re done setting up, great music is playing, and there are enough people here so that you wont feel awkward.  Really.

If you haven’t experienced the curious excitement from the Value of Yammer yet, I present you with these golden nuggets as to why Yammer is such a valuable social networking tool.

1) Self-Populating Knowledge Base: As noted by Sue Gautsch (faculty), “…unlike Facebook, Yammer is a self-populating knowledge base.  Got a question about startups, or Brazil, or Netflix, or whatever?  Type it into the search box and see what your colleagues/classmates are discussing so intelligently when you’re not looking.”  Lesson:  As more and more students, faculty, and alumni join the network, their valuable contributions will richen the knowledge base for all of us to benefit from.  Yammer is private; behind a firewall, and information posted is not searchable by the general public.  You must have a email address to join.

2) Create Groups for Your Class: Easily create a public group for your class.  Ask questions and get quick answers from your classmates.  If you are a shy participant in class, or if English is not your native language, answering someone’s question on Yammer is a great way to share your expertise.  Create a private sub-group for the same class for smaller groups to share top-secret, privileged trade secrets.  Lesson: leverage tacit knowledge from experts through a medium that facilitates knowledge transfer and collection.

3) Challenge For Charity (C4C) 5K on March 12: My wife and I have been training for the Great Race of Agoura Hills, but when full-time students Gene Miller and others have been promoting the 7th Annual Run The Waves 5k this Saturday, we quickly learned that many others were participating, and signed up.  Lesson: disparate conversations are centralized and geography of satellite campuses no longer limits participation.  With Yammer, you can create events within a post.

4) The Best Ways to Watch TV Online:, Hulu,, the list goes on.  There were 30 replies to this post.  Lesson: You can create a poll within a post to source answers to pressing questions like this or others.  See results instantly.  When someone “likes” your poll, or post, your poll or post now appears in their feed for their followers to view.  Now, your poll/post is available to an entire larger network.

5) Travel Tips for the April 2011 Brazil Trip: Last year I traveled to Hong Kong with Pepperdine’s Global program.  I got so much out of the experience I signed up this year to go to Brazil.  One participant created a Brazil Global Program group.  Lesson: most of the people I will be traveling with have shared great insight about airfares, hotels, tricks to stopovers, tricks to getting your visa, and much more simply by sharing their expertise.  I feel like I know the trip participants, and we’re still over 6 weeks away from leaving.

If you don’t see the value yet, what value can you bring to the Pepperdine community?  Share your knowledge, expertise, or even just a funny joke, and watch the community gather around for some Yammering.  Join the conversation today.

Knowledge Sourcing and Blog Sharing

As posted in the Graziadio Voice Blog on February 4, 2011.

The prevalence of different forms of technology and access to vast amounts of information on the Internet has been paramount to supporting our MBA education and knowledge growth.  All that information comes from knowledge sourcing, from authors like us.  I want to take a moment to highlight the concept of social learning (learning among peers, and easily facilitated with technology) as a tool for gaining access to new information.

Graziadio Voice blog entries have been traditionally written by one author, with one perspective, and sourcing references to the entry come from a limited slice of the total amount of information on the subject.  I propose co-authoring future entries on topics with two or three other authors from within our Pepperdine community, who share similar topic interests, and a passion to share knowledge.  Additionally, I encourage you to post a blog entry about 5 topics you would like knowledge sourced.  The result will be richer entries from multiple perspectives, and the proliferation of many more blog entries, created more quickly — for our student, alumni, and academic community to enjoy.

Here is list of the next five blog entries that I have in the pipeline for the Graziadio Voice.  If any one of these topics sound appealing, please contact me, and let’s pool our collective knowledge on future entries.

1)   Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark (the Musical) – A Case Study

In a mirroring of the story itself, producers and their creative team, bitten with the creative bug to stage a “large scale extravaganza,” are faced with the responsibility of saving a record-setting $65M spectacle from turning into a flop.  Business themes include: new models, co-branding (Marvel and U2), investment risk (this has a beta of 4.7), and delayed product launch.

2)   Building Horizontal Networks

Inspired from this Harvard Business Review blog post, the author sums up career advice in one word: options.  The 21st century model is corporate lattice instead of the corporate ladder. The more value you are to your organization, the more options you will have both inside and outside its walls. Business themes include: personal branding, career development, and multiple careers.

3)   Can Social Learning Re-Invent Higher Education?

Thanks to Graziadio’s e-learning department, who has provided us resources such as GLEAN and Yammer, students are now more prepared then ever to leverage social learning.  Knowledge from a collective group of experts, takes learning far beyond textbooks.  How do we access and share that knowledge? Business themes include: new models, social networking, and e-learning. 

4)   Preparation for Any Job

Also inspired from the same Harvard Business Review blog post, how do we prepare 21st century MBA candidates for “any job” when the traditional model prepares us for one career that we used to anticipate having for most, if not, all of our lives?  Business themes include: new models, career development, and entrepreneurship.

5)   Sustainable Business Model for the Performing Arts

Why do they always ask for donations?  For-profit businesses don’t.  I returned to school in 2008 to pursue an MBA after being laid off from a job working in upper-management for a non-profit, live theatre company.  The non-profit had two products: ticket sales and donations.  One product became less popular in 2007.  No new products were in the pipeline.  I have an idea for a sustainable model that involves real estate, education, and social entrepreneurism.  Business themes include: new models, entrepreneurship, and investments.

Do you have knowledge on any of these topics that would add a rich perspective?  Please contact me to contribute to one of these pipeline blog entries.  If you have a similar idea, please share it with me.  I welcome your perspective, and our future readers do too.