This is the story of OrgMapper from its beginnings to the present day. We asked András to tell us about the founding of Maven7 and the creation of the OrgMapper brand and all the essential milestones and turning points he and his Team had to go through to take a significant place in the market today as global leaders of Organizational Network Analysis. Let their story be an inspiration to all of us!
What influences in your early life turned your interest towards network analysis?
I’ve always had a strong motivation to understand things, a natural curiosity. For example, when I was a child my father taught me how ants work together to multiply the result of their efforts to build their colonies. I think my father’s open-minded approach to research has had a big impact on me, and it is mainly thanks to him that my way of thinking has become so analytical and inquisitive. I didn’t invent Ant Network Analytics (ANA) at that time but I was not far from it...
Tamás Vicsek, our Academic Director, is a professor of physics at the biological physics department of Eötvös Loránd University (ELTE), and a head of the Statistical and Biological Physics research group of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. He has been involved in computational and experimental research on fractals, pattern formation, the low-frequency collective motion in proteins and DNA, the collective motion of bacterial colonies, the flocking of birds, and the structure and evolution of complex networks. He has published five books, over 225 articles, and has given lectures at 100+ international conferences. Honorary member of the American Physical Society.
When I was 6 years old until I was 8, we lived in the US and I was on a soccer team coached by my father. This was the time when I first learned the importance of collaboration and roles. The team started with absolutely zero experience, but my father was so effective at finding out who should play what role on the team and improving the collaboration between us that we eventually won the championship.
Later in high school, I also realized the importance of different roles in the community.
I first experienced the powerful constructive and destructive impact of opinion leaders during my school years. In high school, everyone belonged somewhere, everyone had their own subculture, clique or small group. These small groups developed, and each of them became an independent atmosphere, subculture and behaviour, not to mention that they also greatly influenced the culture of the entire class or grade or even the entire school. There were also a good number of opinion leaders who had a more negative impact on the attitudes, behavior, or even well-being of their peers. In environments where teachers do not recognize the power of these young people, they can also cause serious harm. This period had a pretty big impact on my life, as it presumably does on most people, as these influencers play a fundamental role in how we experience our school years. An invisible web is formed, of which these young people are the nodes, and everything they influence affects the whole community. And then in adult life, the exact same “game” continues. The invisible threads and opinion leaders/role models are everywhere and have amazing power. I have always been preoccupied with this topic and I have always known that in the world of work, in the case of organizations as well, the role and influence of these people is treasure in the hands of someone who can use it for good. But only later did I learn about the complex methodology that deals with informal networks.
Why did you start working in this field on a professional level? What inspired you at the beginning of the journey to get even more serious about this project?
I always had a feeling that even though I was never too social or extroverted, I still have an influence on the groups which I am part of. While I was never the center of these communities, I still had an invisible effect on the functioning of the groups. I found it interesting and wanted to understand the dynamics behind it. Is influence really about being outgoing and chatty?
Around 2004, when I was working for an organizational development company we had a basic software solution that was developed from school sociometry software. One of our clients, an insurance company, wanted to better understand how its agents worked together, shared knowledge and motivated each other to be able to improve team performance through these insights. With the software, I created black and white network visualizations with great excitement, and it piqued my interest in the subject so much that I took the network visuals home for a Sunday family lunch. My father saw me looking at those networks and became very excited. That moment was very defining for both of us, as he had also just published an article in Nature about community detection algorithms in large scale networks. I didn’t know about it, so actually, then and there we were shocked out of nowhere that we were dealing with the same thing, we just got there in different ways. In an instant, we recognized that in terms of organizational development, this could be an amazingly useful and innovative method, yet very complex.
At that time, there were no algorithms specialized for this, they were in a rather rudimentary stage. In addition, it was at this time that my father's former student, Albert-László Barabási, published his groundbreaking book: Linked. Having one of the globally most recognized network scientists join Maven7 was amazing. Slowly, the topic of network analysis began to seep into public consciousness around the world. It was a huge inspiration for our team to have such highly knowledgeable and renowned scientists behind us.
At first, all we knew was that we wanted to change the world with this fantastic new discipline in our hands, but there was a lot of confusion and we wanted to implement it as much as possible in business. As Abraham Maslow would say, "If you only have a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail."
Please tell us about the period of founding the company and what significant milestones you reached during this time?
From a scientific point of view, Hungary has always been the center of the field of network research. The most famous basic researchers of graph theory, such as Paul Erdős and Alfréd Rényi, were of Hungarian origin. We also stand out in the field of statistical physics, for example, my father and Albert-László Barabási are both considered to be top scientists in network science and complex systems globally. Not many people know about the important role of Ferenc Mérei - Hungarian psychologist and educator - in developing new methodologies in sociometry though. His pioneering work focused on the inner dynamics of groups and the roles of the individual. A very important influence on domestic education was his ideal that a teacher has to understand the basics of sociometry and be able to analyze the dynamics in a class environment. There have been thousands of sociometric analyses conducted in schools around Hungary since the 1970s, making it possible to further develop the methodology and applications. Therefore, Hungary itself is a greatly inspiring medium for the development of a network analysis company. Hungary is an incubator for the development of network analysis.: Graph theory, sociometry, complex systems research, etc.).
When we decided to start the company together with my business partner and friend, Peter Rupper, our goal was to use network science and social network analysis in a business context, as we knew that networks are the drivers of business everywhere in the world, and whoever has the tools to map these networks will have a competitive advantage over others. In addition to the application within organizations, we developed our activities in two other areas: social media communities and their influencers, and medical communities and their key opinion leaders. The role of Influencers had already taken a very important place in our way of thinking, mainly because we were inspired by amazing Influencers within our small team: the honorable member of our board, László Barabási-Albert's book “Bursts: The Hidden Pattern Behind Everything We Do,” was published in 2010 and filled us all with pride. And there was the Circuits of Profit Business Network Research Conference co-organized with CEU in 2011, which we also consider a very important chapter in our history. Circuits of Profit was a special occasion where practitioners from around the world (e.g. US, Australia, Brazil, Spain, Austria, Denmark, Hungary, Italy) focusing on Organizational Network Analysis could meet and discuss the opportunities and challenges of SNA / ONA in business. We began developing OrgMapper’s predecessor, Firmnet online, which was the first solution to combine the ONA survey with network visualization and analytics. When our first website was completed, it was a huge motivating force for us to see the enthusiastic interest of consulting companies in our solutions, which made it clear to us that we needed to start expanding.
What difficulties did the period of expansion present for the OrgMapper team, and what were the “lessons learned”?
So from 2013, investments in our company started and we started to expand slowly. We opened an office in the US, began focused product development, and expanded our team with sales professionals. One of our most exciting projects at the time was to support the presidential elections in one of the Latin American countries with our social media analyses. We also found the Global head of R&D of one of the largest pharmaceutical companies using science of success analytics methodologies, and this resulted in a successful collaboration. We were included in the Gartner TOP 8 social network analysis vendor list, which was also a great recognition. It was a very dense and hectic period for us, which - without realizing it - was already all about organizational change and change management, and taught us important lessons both in a personal and professional way.
At a certain point in our work, we realized that there were already 21 different products and prototypes in our system, which made us lose focus. As I always told the team at the time: It was as if we had planted 21 different seeds, but we only had 1 glass of water for all of them. We knew at that point that we could not move forward on this path and we would have to make difficult decisions for further development. We knew we needed to transform ourselves, and we knew it was going to be hard. But we believed in the power of change and that great things are accomplished by those who are brave enough to rethink themselves. So we choose our path and set off on it.
What were the most important steps in carrying out this transformation?
There was a recurring demand from our customers and partners for a scalable, automated tool, so we decided to create one. And that’s how OrgMapper Influence was born.
A product that encompasses both our idea and vision of the importance of informal networks, as well as the need for organizations to have a clear, transparent and traceable tool. Our main goal was to successfully implement and accelerate organizational change for organizations. Starting a partnership with Flow Consulting - as Strategic Investor - was a real milestone for our team, since their role and contribution is determinative in our operation. One of our greatest moments of pride came in 2017 when we received Highly Commended recognition in the Business Culture Awards transformation category. In 2018, our co-founder Albert-László Barabási published two of his most famous books: The Formula: The Universal Laws of Success and Network Science, which are both very important readings in this field.
Please tell us about the latest achievements and successes of OrgMapper - what significant events have happened recently?
Thanks to our international recognition, our vision and methodology have received more and more attention, and we have gained a deeper insight into the needs of our clients. In response to these needs, we have begun to develop our new solution which draws its source from digital data and provides continuous data analysis. This is how our new product Excellence was created, which made its successful debut at PwC in 2019. That same year, at the Wharton People Analytics conference, we were selected as one of the top 5 startups, which we count as a huge accolade. Our collaboration with our strategic partners has also made great progress in 2020: we are constantly inspired and motivated by working with Antelope, our partner from the U.S.A., and Maven7 India APAC, which was successfully established under the leadership of Anupam Prakash, Managing Director of Maven7 APAC. At the end of the summer of 2020, our first successful Partner Certification Training was completed in the region, and thanks to the intercession of Maven7 India APAC, 40 enthusiastic and motivated professionals joined us across 12 companies and 10 countries. The 3 pillars of the OrgMapper Universe have also slowly developed and clarified: OrgMapper Solutions (the product family), OrgMapper Academy (coaching, knowledge sharing platform), and OrgMapper Labs (the platform for individual projects, experiments and research) - and thus we have finally become truly complete.
We truly believe that the “future of work” will be built on collaboration and informal connections. Corporations need to innovate faster and become more adaptive than ever before. Everything that can be automated will be automated. Competitive advantage will come from the positive disruption that only connected minds can accomplish. Organizations that can leverage the power of trust and collaboration will thrive and be the ones who win this game.
Want to hear more about the OrgMapper team and our achievements in the field of organizational network analysis? Follow us on Linkedin, where you can track our latest developments!