The Networked Hypothesis

22 Aug

The verdict is out there. At some level, it’s a numbers game. What level might that be? Well, we can always add the ever-mysterious, “It depends…” Numbers scream out something we all wish to, if we could. “I’m cooler”; “I’m richer”; “Better known than you”; “More networked and wired-in than the wires on your server…”

And so we add them all up. “Connections” some call them; “followers” some other. It’s important to Add them up, it’s essential to grow and it’s absolutely critical to show. The Virtual World presents with ease what we hoped was as easy to achieve in the real world as moving your finger and placing it until you hear a satisfying Click. Don’t we all wish that adding and deleting people into life was so simple in real life too? Just press Connect and you’re connected for life.

How these worlds come together, I wonder. Here’s a saga of our very own “Linked” world (and this is where I’m coming from):

I wanted to network with Person A. I check their profile. Seemed like we had a Person B in common, who I know well and thus approach.

Me (to Person B): So how do you know A?

Person B: *blank look* A? Hmmm… doesn’t quite ring a bell.

Me: Erm, yeah they’re on your LinkedIn connection list?

Person B: (comprehension dawns) Oh yeah, well I just add anyone who sends me a request. The more the merrier! *grins*

Me: 😐

So, my point… Erm, networked? Connected? Really?!

Linked right in!

Here’s the debate: Should you ‘connect’ with someone you don’t know?

Granted, the virtual world is a platform to meet new people – awesome. Do that. But don’t, for heaven’s sake, stop at clicking that button. That’s not the finish line, it’s a starting point. What follows? Building the relation of course… followed by the ever-forgotten maintenance of the relation. Whatever gave anyone the impression that these two things (especially the latter) can be skipped? If you’re adding all these people to your list in the hope of bagging the next job interview, you might want to think about how a person who doesn’t know you, cannot recall your name and isn’t quite aware of your existence, would reach out to you personally to hand you that awesome CEO role you’ve been dreaming of.

Here’s a crazy idea: have a chat! Yes, even in the Virtual world – it has some tools (like the keyboard!) that’ll allow you to do that. Discuss a few things… ideate! And then (once you are sufficiently convinced that you’ll at least remember their name, or more importantly, they’ll remember yours), go ahead and shake hands… by adding them of course!.

And no, it does not end there. Retain! Retain your connections – remain “connected” in the real sense of the world. Reach out from time to time to discuss the latest, at their end and yours.

How else did they think the numbers would help? (Some courageous ones even add special 2000+ or 5000+ numbers to their names too, flaunting them as proudly as a PhD or a CA qualification).

I’ll state this: I’m no networking wizard. But at least all my connections on LinkedIn are people I’ve worked with, studied with, some are friends and family and essentially, every single person is someone I have physically met or virtually worked with. But I haven’t stopped there. There are relations that I’ve built online. And I’ve invested time in maintaining them.

Let's get cracking?Simply adding people to your profile adds no real value to you or to them. You might as well be playing Angry Birds. Real value is created when you truly connect with them. It can be a query, a common cause, a job profile or the latest hot-topic in the industry. It is only then do you derive a sense of connection.

Re-connecting on a regular basis is as important as adding a person. Yes, I can see some alarm bells ringing. Especially for people with 1000+ connections. “How on earth are you supposed to do that, with all that going on in your life? Isn’t adding them more than enough?” Perhaps… if you’re OK with a blank look greeting your name.

If it’s human relations you’re talking of, it’s always the rule of three: discover, build and maintain. The Connect and Add buttons are tools to help you get started but they can only take you that far. If you want that someone’s face to light up at your name, you’ve gotta play your part. Thankfully, there’s no replacing that… not yet anyways…  😐

Image copyright: LinkedIn Labs & Rovio Enterntainment
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Posted by on August 22, 2012 in Business, Corporate, Life


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