"Impact Networks" by David Ehrlichman

Review by Borodutch

Sometimes people try to formalize unformalizable forces of nature and chance to get a sense of control. In reality, though, this is but an illusion of control. "Impact Networks" is precisely about that — trying to use evident and shallow categories of the everyday world to describe something chaotic and more complex. One might say that this is even an example of the oversimplification fallacy.

David's book reads like a set of clear rules and actions that, when collected together, spawn irresistible forces of human networks. Unfortunately, this approach falls short of reality. If one tries to use "Impact Networks" as a manual for action, the result might be an over-formalized pile of bureaucracy on one end and an under-supervised chaotic blob on the other.

Even though the author provides examples of existing networks and the results of their joint labour, he only picks the qualities that support his method without trying to poke holes in it. If he tried to falsify his work, he would not only find plenty of issues but also get a more robust (and more straightforward) system. The whole method consists of the following:

  1. Finding people to join the cause
  2. Nurturing relationships and trust between the members
  3. Navigating the network toward achieving a common goal

And this is it, folks! The rest of the book is simply trying to find a "happy path" toward getting these three components in place. By "happy path," in this context, I mean the most straightforward and the least flexible way to get to where you need to be without looking back on any possible setbacks or even considering that sometimes networks can evolve into unimaginable forms.

I wouldn't recommend you read this book unless you have never been a part of a network that succeeded in achieving a common goal. Because if you did, most of the things in the book will either be obvious or make no sense in its overly formalized approach.