Six Degrees of Separation May Work in the Real World, But Not Inside a Siloed Organisation?

Trying to track down who knows a particular thing in an organisation can get a bit frustrating at times…

You ask someone who you think may know, and they don’t. Treating it like a six degrees of separation thing, you then ask each person for a name of someone they think might know. But that doesn’t work either.

At some point, messages get cc’d to people who have already asked (and who are presumably getting fed up with seeing the same request keep looping back to them). Which makes me think that a good definition of a silo might be defined in graph theoretic terms as a cycle?

Maybe silos do have ways out of them – a single connection between two subgraphs that are each heavily interconnected within themselves – or maybe they don’t…

For example, if edges are directed in the sense of who folk would think to ask about a topic maybe the person who connects one subgraph (that doesn’t know the answer) to the subgraph where someone does know the answer doesn’t have any incoming edges.

If I ask A_C or A_B, and B_C is the person who knows what I need to know, we’re stuck… Whereas if I’d asked A_A, B_A, or B_B, I’d have got there… If B_A is the person I need to find, then, erm… If it’s A_A, all hope is lost!

PS This makes me remember a weak optimisation trick: if you get stuck in a local minimum, start again by seeding with a new random starting point. Hmm… maybe sending random emails instead?

Author: Tony Hirst

I'm a Senior Lecturer at The Open University, with an interest in #opendata policy and practice, as well as general web tinkering...

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