Network Talent Bridges Five Boundaries

Advances in network and collaboration technologies are dismantling many of the boundaries that once prevented people from working together. Yet as physical boundaries are removed, the boundaries that still exist in human relationships remain.

In a decade-long program of research, a team of researchers associated with the Center for Creative Leadership sought to understand these boundaries and how leaders and organizations can span them.

The boundaries that matter most today are psychological and emotional, rather than organizational and structural. These divides are largely about human identity: core values, how we define ourselves and how we fit within our larger social world.

The following five types of boundaries challenge leaders and organizations to work in new ways:

  • Vertical: Rank, class, seniority, authority, power.
  • Horizontal: Expertise, function, peers.
  • Stakeholder: Partners, constituencies, value chain, communities.
  • Demographic: Gender, generation, nationality, culture, personality, ideology.
  • Geographic: Location, region, markets, distance.

While these boundaries create constraints, they can also be frontiers. Wherever boundaries collide and diverse expertise and experience intersect, there is potential for solving pressing problems, driving innovation and leading breakthrough change.

— Chris Ernst and Donna Chrobot-Mason, director of the Center for Organizational Leadership at the University of Cincinnati.