Collaborative weight

The Life Cycle of a Sustainable Network

“Most of us intuitively believe that more collaboration is better…this is not always the case, especially when growing a network.”


This infographic from Visible Network Labs does a great job of visualizing the relational life cycle of many networks. They gradually grow and expand to the point where the energy and time costs of maintaining a high level of collaboration and engagement becomes too much for the network to sustain. At this point, networks can gradually lose focus, momentum, and progress until

  • Enough people leave, new partnerships are launched, or technology helps manage the collaboration and communication so that it becomes sustainable again
  • the network collapses under the weight of collaboration burnout, or
  • The network restructures with a focus on key partner relationships, clear roles, and sub-teams.

Key Ideas

  • When building a network, more and larger is not always better. At a certain size and intensity of connection the network becomes unwieldy and hard to sustain.
  • Networks that are sustainable take a strategic approach to identifying and investing in key partner and broker relationships, clarifying network roles, and creating work teams to move projects forward.
Life Cycle of a Sustainable Network

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