When Hierarchies and Networks Collide

Posted on by Brandon Klein

    What happens when a hierarchy meets its match in today’s networked world? Who wins, the hierarchy or the network?

If anything, the popular upheavals that we’ve seen since 2011 across Syria, Egypt, Yemen, and Libya have exposed the extent to which some organizations (i.e states) would go to take over and quash any opportunity for other networks to emerge and resist them.
Hierarchies vs. Networks

Hierarchies and networks are very different forms of organizing. The hierarchy usually consists of a vertical organization that is centralized with top-down command and control functions. Hierarchies include a wide range of today’s fledging organizations across multiple polities, including clans, tribes, states and any org charts that looks like this:
A hierarchy

Networks, on the other hand, are self-organizing structures. Networks are random and spontaneous and as such they are hard to monitor and inherently complex. Networks span our everyday life, from the distribution of our DNA, to the public markets through which we exchange goods and services and some of the more forward thinking organizations in which we work.