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End “who you know” culture – War declared on nepotism!

April 5, 2011 10 comments

Well there’s nothing more “King Canutish” than trying to stem the tide against human nature! Today, the UK’s coalition government has declared war on nepotism. See the report here at the BBC website of an interview with Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.

Regular readers of the blog will have seen a post about British culture called “Posh & Posher: Education & the Old Boys Network” earlier in the year. The main point of the post was that Personal Networks can bring influence and power. Alongside this was a more worrying trend that the increasingly closed network of “old school chums” in government leads to our politicians being out of touch.

I happened to be watching breakfast TV when Clegg was being interviewed. I nearly choked on my cornflakes!

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He said: “We will stop all informal internships in Whitehall, in government, so that you can’t just have this network where people get an internship because of who they know. They should get an internship because of what they know.”

I’m a big fan of meritocracy – we’ve all worked with people who have little talent, but great connections! However, what needs to be recognised is that in the absence of knowing a person, we test out people ultimately through reference to others. Here are two personal examples from the last week that illustrate that “who you know” is so important.

First example, I’m planning to invest in a small US start-up in the area of crowd sourcing. I had a conference call with one of the advisers of the business who is based in San Francisco last week. We’d not met/spoken before – but I have the luxury of checking out his CV via Wikipedia and LinkedIn. He can do the same for me. CVs over – how do we connect. Well, he knows and is trusted by my friend (and start-up founder), Todd, who I’ve know for 20 years. At the end of our first call, the guy in SF floated “do you know ****”? No, but I did know someone who knew **** well – who used to be my companies chairman – and onwards. We’re all reassured by the trust of the “who we know”. CVs are the “what you know”!

Secondly, I had a tweet last night from a Friend of a Friend – Chris Book. We’ve not met, and this was his first tweet to me. He’s from Bath and is very good pal of one of my first connections in my new home town. He tweeted me because of who I know – and knowing my interest in Personal Networks. He wanted my opinion. His tweet was:-

Interesting thought (ish) – my last contract I got through linked in (exactly 3 years ago) this one through twitter

My opinion is that LinkedIn is primarily a CV – and has filled a gap in finding candidates, collating information. The “recommends” service has little use. If you wanted to business with someone or employ, you would pick up the phone/email and check with their connections. Twitter has moved this on so much, you can see whether people are genuinely active – and who wants to know them and engage! Twitter gives the who you really know and have a relationship with – and how they interact with you in a transparent format. LinkedIn gives you the “what you know” and “what you’ve done” presentation.

Sorry Nick! I’m a big fan of the coalition but you need to accept that “who you know” will always be our way of quickly building trust to offering partnerships, employment, opportunities – and internships! As Social Media develops Personal Networks will become more valuable every day. Everyone need to keep focussed on the “who you know”. It will always be the most important and valuable asset you have in life. The CV and application form doesn’t tell the true story….

Keeping Score?

October 10, 2010 2 comments

There’s a small news story in today’s FT Weekend about BNI (Business Network International) making an award to the UK’s most successful networker. Step forward 36-year-old Simon Johnson, who is a flooring specialist from East Anglia. The story is on the FT website – but you will need to register to get access.

The story says that over the past 12 months, Simon has generated his contacts £634,233 of business after creating 102 money-making

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referrals for his colleagues in the King’s Lynn BNI Chapter. It certainly shows the value of Personal Networks that are well managed – Simon seems an expert.

I am not sure whether Personal Networking is just about referrals (especially the measured and recorded type). In previous blog posts I have supported the view of people like Keith Ferrazzi (author of “Never Eat Alone”) that networking is not about keeping score. Also, one of my favourite quotes on networking is from Mick Cope (who wrote the FT’s book “Personal Networking”) – he puts forward the view that a network is about having contacts who support you, NOT that you sell to.

I find the BNI model interesting – but it does challenge my views on networking. The BNI’s “Handbook” – “Networking like a PRO” by Dr. Ivan Misner – makes a strong point about being a “Farmer” not a “Hunter”. I struggle to see how you are a “Farmer” when you keep score on a day-to-day basis. Does BNI – or Simon – get a “cut” of the referrals? Is this a “sale” to friends – or just the generosity of a good networker (with a small “thank you” attached).

I’m going to track down Simon in King’s Lynn – and ask him for his comments/thoughts. It would be good to meet an excellent personal networker – and I’d like to get his views on “keeping score”.

Facebook Friends vs. Quality Connections

September 13, 2010 2 comments

While exploring the world of Personal Networks – I have spent most of my time “hanging out” at LinkedIn. It’s more business focussed (which I understand) – and probably more attuned to my age group. However, I do have a Facebook presence – which, as explained in previous blogs, is really there just to keep an eye on what the kids are up to (until they block me!!)

I do believe that future trends are more likely to be driven by a younger age group – and this last week I have been taking some time to try and understand the Facebook phenomena. I’ve come across two interesting bits

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of research – both support my gut feel that Facebook has a difficult model to sustain.

First discovery came via the chaps at the Simply Zesty. They created a very interesting blog post saying that “Facebook is trying to be too many things for too many people”.   In amongst their views, they reference the work of Paul Adams – an executive at Google who researches User Experience. I encourage you to go to Slideshare and look at Paul’s presentation on Facebook, Friends and social networking in general – or scroll through below. Paul draws great analogies with the real world – and shows how the Facebook model of “friends” just doesn’t work.

The second discovery came via a chance dinner conversation with a contact. I mentioned my new project and he explained his wife works for The Future Company – a leading consultancy on future facing-research and innovation. Amazing what this networking turns up…. I had a look at their blog this afternoon – and there’s an excellent post (supported by their research) on people losing interest in Facebook. Here’s a paragraph from the post that makes a very interesting point:-

“Curiously, this also tallies with a general trend that we have picked up with our Global Monitor survey this year – when asked, people in almost every country overwhelmingly expressed a preference for a small number of quality connections they can rely on rather than a large quantity of connections they can call on (levels of agreement are practically the same across all age groups as well – which you might not necessarily expect from those gregarious Millennials). Facebook’s business model is built on the opposite assumption – that people want to continually add as many contacts as possible (and then lump them all together in the same group as their ‘friends’).”

I’m beginning to draw the conclusion that developing your Personal Network Value is similar to growing a business. In commerce, we’ve all met (and occasionally been) the busy fools who chase Turnover (Revenue) & Activity – with no eye on Profit (Income) & Value. It seems to me that currently Social Networking is mostly about the race to get more contacts – but I believe this will soon be replaced by a more mature view of developing a small, quality network to help personal growth and value.

Holiday Reading, Tom Peters and the Cheshire Cat

August 25, 2010 3 comments

I am off on holiday in the morning – and I’m going to split my reading time between finishing off my current Personal Network book – “Trust Agents” by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith (I can hear you fellow bloggers saying “I can’t believe you’ve not read that already!”), digging in to a “leisure” read by one of my favourite authors, Michael Dobbs (his new book – “The Reluctant Hero”) – and using Tom Peters “The Brand You” as a workbook to help set my personal objectives.

If you’ve not tried “The Brand You” book by Tom Peters – it’s a brilliant read. Mick Cope (whose book “Personal Networking” I reviewed in an earlier blog post) recommended the book to me. Mick said: “I have always loved the Brand You stuff by Tom Peters – which although was picked up by

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some people – never really found its mark.” After ordering a copy (it’s a classic from 1999 – but not too hard to find) I read it within 48 hours. I have always liked the passion of Tom Peters. I remember during tricky times in my business during the early 1990s playing the audio tape of “Thriving on Chaos” over and over in car as I tried to work my way through the development/growing pains of my company. I have no less enthusiasm for Tom’s work revisiting his teachings some 20 years on.

On the inside cover of the book, he lists his key ideas around Brand You – which he expands through the book. I will certainly be spending time deliberating on many of these ideas and questions:-

* “Routinely asks the Question: WHO AM I?/WHAT DO I WANT TO BE?” – Very relevant after 4 years being “funemployed”
* “Pursues Mastery of something!” Can I really become a Master of Personal Networks – and can I use this Mastery to help others?
* “Selects Clients v-e-r-y carefully/Rejects Clients who are a bad match” Cool discipline to have … and I have no excuse because I don’t need the work. Nice position to be in – but don’t cock up and get distracted by wanting to be all things to all men….
* “Is a Rolodex Maniac/Networks like Crazy!” Well you can tell this is a 1999 book (no mention of Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc). Glad he really values the role of Personal Networks in success.
* “Is a ‘Renewal Fanatic’/Cultivates curiosity/Takes every opportunity to learn s-o-m-e-t-h-i-n-g new!” I love change – and I’m enthused by learning about Personal Networks. How to I keep this curiosity focussed?

So, a time to review with some good books. I think the three key areas that I need to investigate to help understand my Personal Network journey are:-

* Personal Branding. As Tom puts it “Your are the CEO of your Life” – so I’d best understand and be able to present my “brand”
* Social Networking. It’s the buzz of the moment – and I love the digital age – but how does this fit in to Personal Networks? I believe it’s a smaller, and less important, part of our life than people currently think.
* Personal Objectives. Where do I want to go? Otherwise, all other things don’t have a focus or fall in to place. The Cheshire Cat expresses this best in Alice in Wonderland:-

“Which road do I take?” (Alice)
“Where do you want to go?”
“I don’t know,” Alice answered.
“Then, said the cat, it doesn’t matter.”
“If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.” (Cheshire Cat)

Holiday reading will be a lot less testing than the questions… Who I Am – and Where do I Want to Go!

My Network Value – £2.5m+

August 17, 2010 4 comments

I stumbled across a fun “tool” run by Xing called “My Network Value”. If you get a chance, have a play – it takes less

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than 5 minutes to complete.

Here is my result – and I’m over £2.5m richer than I thought I was!!!

Have a play – and let’s compare results. I think there were a couple of figures that I filled in that might have skewed the figures in my favour – can you guess what they were?

Their comments on my network are below:-

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Auto response – but very useful!

Mia, the rainshower, the Yellow Suit, Cuban Dance and Profit Power Economics

August 16, 2010 Leave a comment

Well, earlier in my blog, I did mention that I had a tenuous link to a person in my PNN (“Personal Network” Network). Mia de Kuijper is a world leading economist/strategist – with strong view on “power nodes”.

I have actually met Mia once – and reading her book “Profit Power” my thinking change from looking at solutions in the area of CRM (Customer Relationship Management) to understanding the power of individual components/nodes (in my case people) in the new economy.

Anyway, my meeting with Mia was caused by an early arrival at

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a Theatre (near the London School of Economics) to watch Cuban Dance! There was a rain storm – and a bookshop was open at the back of LSE. My wife and I dashed for cover and were confronted by a staff getting ready to lock up – and a lady in a stunning yellow suit finishing signing books. Who could resist a book on economics! She kindly signed the book – and as well as brilliant night at the theatre … I got a great insight in to the power of positioning yourself correctly in the new economy.

In particular she introduced me to the work of Albert-László Barabási. She describes in her book his work on Internet search engines and Hollywood figures that produced “Powerlaw Networks”. Although the book focusses on the strategic positioning of businesses in the global market place – the principles are equally applicable to an individual finding their place in the world through finding the right place in their network (much like Barabási’s Hollywood figures did naturally!).

Mia’s book was certainly the first step in me stopping thinking of contacts as Rolodex cards or Outlook VCF files – and much more as nodes in our networks, stars in our solar system!

Thank you Mia.

The Tipping Point – Malcolm Gladwell – Review

July 22, 2010 2 comments

Now this book is a little older than my previous review (first published in 2000).  It’s a great read – not just for the insight to certain elements of Personal Networks.  If anyone wants to get a better understanding of psychology, how to be a better parent … or maybe even make significant changes in a country with limited resources (sounds like a relevant challenge) – this is the book to read.

Malcolm is a great writer/journalists – and mixes some solid research with anecdotes and interview.  It makes for a very enjoyable read.  The only section that seemed a little dated was on Sesame

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Street and Blues Clues (which revolutionised children’s TV in the 1970/80/90s) – but the rest was as relevant today as when written.

One of the best parts of the book was the short conclusion.  Often books finish off with an enthusiastic/rushed repetition of the main themes – but Malcolm leaves you with key thoughts/actions.

The two areas that significantly touched on Personal Networking were:-

*  Connectors, Mavens and Salesmen.  I’ve mentioned the Connectors in a previous blog post.   The author explained these three types of characters well – and their role in the Tipping Point.  One thing he did not identify is how high a percentage of us have these characteristics.  I’ll have to research further on-line – or maybe ask him on his blog – http://www.gladwell.com/

*  Dunbar’s Number. He explains the principle of humans naturally having a most efficient group size of 150 people. Robin Dunbar (from Oxford University) has done research in to ancient civilisations – and modern business groups … and 150 keeps on recurring. There’s a great story about the Gore organisation (known for Gore-Tex) who only create buildings with 150 car park spaces, and when people start parking on the grass … they create a new building/division. Malcolm covers Dunbar’s ideas really well – and has set me on course to research this more thoroughly by reading Robin’s latest book – How Many Friends Does One Person Need?: Dunbar’s Number and Other Evolutionary Quirks.

Recommended reading – the research is great fun (my wife got bored with me telling her the amazing facts!!). I’m currently on a beach holiday – so will do the MindMap of the book when I get back to base. Anyone else read this book?

Personal Network – google search NOW

I’ve been surprised as I explore the idea of the Personal Network that there is so little focussed information.

For example, a search on Google (UK version) for “Personal Network” gives very

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few relevant links on the first page.

Highlights are:-

A Wikipedia entry – that seems to be by an East European, Pawel Zorzan – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Personal_Network

A very good PDF outlining a course given in the US to young students by bonner.org (it’s great that someone is already teaching the value of a Personal Network to youngsters) – http://www.bonner.org/resources/…pdf/BonCurBldgPersonalNetwk.pdf

A blog entry from 2007 by Stephen Downes from Canada (why is all the cool stuff on blogging, networking, etc from Canada these days??) – http://halfanhour.blogspot.com/2007/11/personal-network-effect.html

Stephen’s entry pointed me in the direction of Robin Dunbar – and his book “How Many Friends Does One Person Need?: Dunbar’s Number and Other Evolutionary Quirks”. Robin came up with the idea that 150 is the “magic number” for personal connections. He’s on my summer reading list … so more soon!

Anyway, if you do a Google search of “Social Networks” there is a very different set of results (lots of competing banners, side bar adverts and good links). If you’ve read more of this blog – then you know that I feel that Personal Networks are a significant part of your “net worth” – so why so little focus compared to the “spin of the hour” (social networks!)??

Love is the Killer App – Tim Sanders – Book Review & Mind Map

July 14, 2010 1 comment

You will have seen earlier in the blog that Tim Sanders kindly let me quote a passage from his blog – SandersSays His reply to my request was very much in character: “Love it, Phil!  You have my permission – thanks for sharing the Love.”

Well, I thought that with such a positive reply – I should read the 2002 First Edition copy of his book that I’d found second hand on Amazon … and make it my first book review on the blog.  Here goes…

The book was read in one session (on a nice sunny day in the garden!).  The “Knowledge” and “Network” sections are a particularly

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good read.  One of the lessons learnt from the book was that if you are going to read a book – take some serious notes and note down at the end what you think the Big Thought was from the book.

I’ve never been a great note taker – but thought I would try to Mind Map the book with the software that I am keeping my “Personal Network” Network up to date on – MindMeister.  Take a look at the MindMap of Tim’s Book – I’d be interested to see if this is helpful to others?

The three elements that I took from the book were:-

* In the business world it can be a very successful strategy to be generous and giving. He has a great mantra – NSPS “Nice, smart people succeed.”
* An important tool in this giving process is sharing knowledge with your friends and contacts. Tim has an excellent perspective on books which I will share later.
* A healthy network is “fed” by you making connections through giving & sharing your knowledge with others.

The book is a useful source if you are looking for some ideas on business reading. Although the book is now a little dated (published first in 2002) – I suspect that the references are still very relevant to business today. Take a look at the MindMap – there’s lots of references to Tim’s favorite books throughout. Certainly, Malcolm Gladwell’s “The Tipping Point” is next on my reading pile (and that’s mentioned frequently),

Tim emphasises the positive aspects for you and your network in giving and sharing ideas.  He puts forward that you should be the hunter/gatherer of information for your network.  He also sees that through this knowledge base you should evangelise about new ideas.  It’s an interesting concept – and Tim seems to have a humble approach to this (it’s know that he knows it all – he just knows a new idea through a book he has read by someone else.)

This theory will appeal to those with a thirst for knowledge (I’d count myself amongst these folk).  It also gives you a positive application for that knowledge by giving to your network selflessly.  Tim has a cool way of working out what he reads (he use the analogy for dining) with Magazine Articles – Between-meal snacks, News Media (electronic or print) – Candy & Soda, fun to eat, but hardly appropriate to live on and (his favourite!) Books – the complete thought meal.  It’s changed my perspective – and when you think that the other lighter meals are shoveled with those nasty additives (advertising!), you can see why books get a big thumbs up.

I liked the section on Networks.  I share the desire to impart information to others – and he talks well about fusing connections with this.  It’s also not a cynical view of giving in order to receive back (either payment as a broker – or expectation of a favour in return).  Interestingly he illustrates through personal examples how at the edges this can go wrong (when people he introduce cut him out of a deal) and when it goes right (when a contact – out of the blue – gives him share in his company that floats).

My British reserve makes me cringe slightly through the final “Compassion” section.  I’m not the huggy/touchy feely type – so this is a little lost on me.  Maybe if I meet Tim at some point and he gives me a hug I will understand the “Love”.

In summary, on my journey exploring personal networks, this is a fantastic book that helps you to understand the principle of giving generously to feed a network and applying yourself to gaining knowledge to to have something relevant to offer to your network.  I like the core principle of selflessness in that giving (very much like Keith Ferrazzi’s not keeping score in my earlier blog.)  I would also say, that personally, Tim’s tips on encoding and processing books are excellent – and will be in my blogging/networking toolkit from now on.

Great book – “Loved it!”.  Thank you, Tim.

“Your Network is your Net Worth!”

As I research the subject of Personal Networks further. I am finding many more resources on the subject – and my Amazon account is taking some hammering! It’s interesting that it’s often the older books & research (from 1970s through to early 2000s) that seem to be hitting the mark for me. I think some of this is because in recent times the focus of most writing has been on the rapid growth of Social Networking. I believe that your personal network should be reviewed in the round – and the focus just on social networking can be damaging to contacts not actively on-line (and those

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hard to find people you would like to meet).

One quote I came across today was a header on a page of Keith Ferrazzi’s website.

“Your network is your net worth … Add to your personal bottom line with better networking and bigger relationships.” Tim Sanders, Author of Love is the Killer App.

I passionately believe that this is right – and very few people value their Personal Network enough. Tim’s book seems to be out of print in the UK now – but Amazon have come up with a second-hand version that is being shipped to me.

Anxious to find more about Tim Sanders, I headed off to his website. He has a great post on the subject. It’s quoted below (with Tim’s permission) – and has an excellent networking tip at the end.

“Your network is your net worth. So why don’t you invest time in it?

Think about it. Much of your future rides on one of your network contacts. Your network of personal relationships, filed in databases like Outlook or Yahoo’s Address Book, is the number one source of opportunities and solutions for you.

Yet you don’t invest much time in it at all. You probably spend five to ten times more personal effort making sure your Inbox is empty — yet that yields very little value. Time invested in entering personal contacts, spending time with them and keeping the relationship fresh is much more valuable time spent.

Recommended: Do the random refresh exercise every Thursday for the next four weeks. Here’s how the exercise works: You randomly pick three names from your rolodex or address book. Call them on the phone and devote fifteen minutes to playing catchup. Agree to do something with at least one of them, even if it is just a call or lunch in the future. The whole month’s effort should cost you less than four hours, yet potentially yield something great. Try it and report results later under comments.”

I’m definitely going to become a follower of his blog – and will review his book when it arrives.

Tim speaks a lot of sense!

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