Communication Made Easy — Speaking, Editing, Writing, Marketing, Networking Answers

A picture may be worth 1,000 words, but words themselves are at the basis of all communication. Whether we are communicating for business or personal reasons, our spoken and written words matter. These posts will address issues and answer questions related primarily to business communications, as they affect writing, credibility, marketing, and networking.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

How Connected Are We, Really?

Let's begin by playing a little game you might remember from childhood called "Word Association." Close your eyes, if you’re so inclined — and think of the first word or idea that comes to mind when I say the word "network." OK — go ahead and open your eyes.

Now, if you’re in the high-tech industry, specializing in hardware, in particular, chances are you thought of the wires and cables that connect computers together. If you’re in any way involved with broadcast media, perhaps you conjured the image of a group of TV stations that all transmit the same programs, such as ABC, NBC, and CBS, once called "the Big 3." If you’re an entrepreneur, it’s very likely the word triggered for you thoughts dozens of people crowded into a hotel conference space, nervously clutching their drinks, reciting their canned speeches, and doing the Business Card Shuffle.

According to a 1975 edition of Webster’s Unabridged, a network is defined as:

Any arrangement or fabric of parallel wires,
threads, etc. crossed at regular intervals by others
fastened to them so as to leave open spaces.

Regardless of which of these concepts resonated the most for you, each one is — fundamentally — about the idea of connection.

The networking I want to focus on today is most closely tied to the entrepreneurial networking concept — although I do hope to paint a picture for you that illustrates how your human connections really just mirror the cables and wiring that make up your computer network and or broadcast company.

Let’s shift gears for a moment, and consider — what, really, is the power of one? Ideas, enthusiasm, creativity, knowledge, talent, production of a product. Great. Good for me, with my ideas, enthusiasm, talent, etc. But how does any of these things benefit me — or others — if I have no one to share them with?

Now consider what happens if we take our one, and add one more person. Now we’re talking about the power of two. When you have two people, you have a community. No longer a single individual trying to go it alone, in addition to ideas, knowledge, and products, you now have support, a sounding board, a collaborator, a partner, a customer.

So what happens when we multiply our tiny group of 2 by itself? We get four, right?

Certainly some of you remember those dopey shampoo commercials from the 70s — if I tell two friends and they tell two friends . . . and so on . . . and so on . . . and so on . . .

That dopey commercial had it right. That is exactly the power of networking.

Let’s take an example.

Let’s say Joe is looking for a job. He’s highly skilled and extraordinarily qualified as a widget-maker. Unfortunately, his position has been eliminated. Now let’s say "Joe" decides to look on this as an opportunity. Although Joe loves making widgets, he decides this is the Universe’s way of giving him a chance to try something new, something he’s always wanted to do . . . like stand-up comedy.

Of course, Joe was really, really good at his old career. He was, in fact, Supervisor of the Widget-Makers. And because of the respect he’d earned in that position, he had all kinds of widget industry contacts. But now he’s looking to move into the comedy arena, and he realizes that while they may be very funny in their own way, none of his widget colleagues knows anyone in the stand-up comedy business. Joe really, really want to be a stand-up comedian, but he has no idea where to start. Who can he turn to for help? Certainly not his widget buddies. So who? There’s got to be someone.

But he doesn’t know any comedians . . .

Do you think there might be something wrong with the thinking here? That’s right — it’s limited. OK, let’s see if we can reframe this.

Joe doesn’t know anybody in the stand-up comedy industry . . . but I know Joe has a computer . . . that’s attached to the Internet . . .

So one idea is for Joe to go home and get online to do some research. But is there a better way? A more direct avenue into the world of stand-up comedy.

Wait . . . wait . . .

What does Joe spend at least half his time online doing? If he’s anything like me, he spends a lot of his online time on e-mail! And who’s on the other side of every e-mail? A person!

Now we’re starting to get somewhere. Rather than stopping at his computerized network, what would happen if Joe tapped into his human network?

Oh, but wait. Joe still don’t know anyone involved in the world of stand-up comedy, and most of the people on his e-mail list are widget people. Back to square one, right? Not so fast. What if Joe scrolls through this list? Oh, wait, there’s a friend he used to work with at the newspaper in LA. Maybe she knows someone. And look, here’s the name of an actor friend in New York. Think he might know anyone?

Oh, oh . . . and look, here’s Joe’s Toastmasters e-mail list. Certainly one of these fine people knows at least one person who knows one person who knows one person who has their foot in the door as a stand-up comic.

And that’s what networking is all about. How many people in this room know at least 10 people they’d consider solid contacts, either professionally or socially? And how may of those contacts do you think have 10 solid contacts of their own? And so on. And so on. Just because Joe doesn’t personally know anyone connected to the stand-up comedy world does not mean he’s not connected to the stand-up comedy world . . . it might just mean that the connection is a few degrees separated from him.

So my question to you is this: How big is YOUR network? How big do you want your network to be? Can you use your professional, networking, releigious, educational, and personal connections to grow it? Of course you can!

If you belong to an organizaiton or associaiton tha has a national parent group, the next time you travel, for business or for pleasure, consider finding the local chapter of that group and attending as a guest. They’d love to have you — and you’d get to see how a group in another part of the country — or perhaps another part of the world — runs their meetings. And just maybe, you might add another link to your network.

I received an e-mail the other day from an online community I belong to — they were introducing a new staff member, the VP of Connectivity. This is how they defined connectivity:

Connectivity is all about connecting with people
in meaningful ways that create opportunities for growth.

Some of my friends call me a networking queen. I don’t think I’ve quite earned the title of queen, but I will admit certain pride in thinking of myself as a networking princess.

Here's my challenge to you. What would it take for you to think of yourself as a VP of Connectivity — a conduit for collaboration, a success fosterer, a strategic alliance bridge builder, a talent farmer?

It's up to you, for each of us truly is exactly as connected as we want to be.

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