My book Living Networks was dedicated to “all those wonderful people in the world who are bringing the networks to life with their energy and passion”.
It is of course now abundantly clear that networks are the underlying structure of business and society.
Seminal social networks (in their pre-digital sense) pioneer Ron Burt proposed the term ‘structural holes’ to refer to the connections between people that did not exist but could create value.
You probably know some people (or you may be one yourself) who in conversations will frequently ask, ‘do you know so-and-so?,’ because they recognize that there would be mutual value in you knowing each other, and actively want to connect you.
In Malcolm Gladwell’s parlance, these are ‘Connectors’. The power of connectors is not in the strength of their connections, but the diversity of the many weak ties that they have across many communities.
However what really makes the difference is that they proactively connect, they don’t need to be asked. If they think two people should be connected then they are compelled to make the connection.
In Living Networks I used the example of Napier Collyns, a co-founder of the highly influential scenario planning firm Global Business Network. It was sometimes jokingly referred to as “Global Buddies of Napier,” not just for Napier’s extraordinary network, but his deep desire to connect.
In every one of my many conversations with Napier he constantly told me about people I should connect with if I wasn’t already, and he made sure he brought us together. His deep desire to connect created immense value for everyone he touched.
Many people strive to be good at ‘networking’, and a host of speakers and writers specialize in advising people how to build their personal networks, by going to events, reaching out on social networks, and a variety of other tactics.
In my keynotes over the years I would often urge people to have the primary intention of connecting not themselves, but others. Whenever you meet someone, think first of the connections between them and others that will create value, and take action to connect them. A slide in many of my keynotes read:
If you help bring the networks to life… you will create success for yourself
Your focus should be not on yourself, but in bringing the networks to life around you, enabling the immensely valuable connections that otherwise would be gaps, lost opportunities for human connection and value creation.
By thinking primarily about connecting others, as a side product you will create immense value for yourself, by living and working in a richer, more connected network of people, ideas, and value creation, incidentally making yourself more central to the incredible opportunities that you are helping to catalyze around you, at the heart of value as the networks we live in awaken and flourish.
I was recently going to quote this phase in an article I was writing, but when I searched for it, it wasn’t on Google. So I thought it was worth writing this post to re-share the idea. 😃
If you are bringing the networks to life, I love you!
Image: Nastya Dulhiier