Is there a point where your collaborative network becomes too big?  Is there a point where the value diminishes based on the effort to maintain your collaborative network?  I think that you can definitely come to the point where the size of the network reaches a point where the cost of maintaining the network in both effort and even spending overcomes the value that you achieve.  The challenge though is determining when you reach the point so that you can stop increasing the size of the network.  This is a difficult challenge because you must balance the partners that join the network with the partners that drop from the network.  The very nature of the professional encourages expansion and contraction of both members and participation.  Due to this natural tendency of your network to expand and contract you must carefully review any steps to control the size.

Your collaborative network will swell and contract from two key methods; a change, positive or negative, in the number of partners and a change in participation of the partners.  Due to this natural tendency to expand and contract it will be difficult to determine when you have reached a point of saturation.  This saturation point can simply be due to a natural expansion of participation or it can be due to going over the optimal size of the network.  You must keep in mind this factor when evaluating your network so that you don’t unnecessarily contract your network and impact the value proposition.  You must always watch the current and potential value proposition when evaluating your network size and participation.

Remember that your collaborative network will expand and contract naturally so before taking any drastic measures to control or limit the size of your network you should take a step back and evaluate why you believe your network has grown too large.  You must understand and explore the reasons behind your determination that the network has become too large.  There is a level of effort required to maintain the network from each of the partners, as the network and participation grows this level of effort to maintain the relationships also grows.  This is only natural, before limiting the size and participation of your network you must determine if it will provide an commensurate benefit to increase the amount of time available to manage the network.

This role of supporting and maintaining the collaborative network can be a growth area for employment with its own specific skill requirements.  I compare this to the roles that were created in companies and marketing to maintain social networks such as Facebook.  The role to maintain the collaborative network will follow a similar path.

And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

How do you identify and address new opportunities in your current business market?  Have you ever tried to develop a SWOT focused on new business opportunities or new markets  to evaluate the fit for partnership and as a means to address and meet new opportunities?  Do you regularly develop a SWOT analysis to evaluate your internal capabilities and needs to support new business and market opportunities?