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Small Worlds, Connecting the Dots and Dark Side of the Moon

It never ceases to amaze me how the world connects. The “dots” we create as we meet people, take on new experiences and generally make our mark on the world often join together to create startling insights and opportunities.

One of my favourite examples of this comes from Steve Jobs. If you get a chance, watch this video of him addressing students at a Stanford University Graduation ceremony about 6 years ago.

The speech is superb – emotional and motivational. Jobs manages to make you laugh, cry and – most important of all – gets the brains (young and old) to click

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and tick in thought.

One part of the speech focussed on following your heart. Just doing things – that make no sense at the time. He told the tale of dropping out of college and for some reason taking a course on calligraphy. He didn’t know why he took the course – but looking back he can clearly connect this to being obsessed with getting the fonts right on the original Apple Macintosh computer. That’s why today our Mac and Windows computers have great fonts!

Steve said: “You can’t connect the dots going forward, you can only connect them going back.” That was the only part of his magnificent oratory that grated with me. Entrepreneurs can’t say can’t – and you can’t say can’t to an entrepreneur! I think building a Personal Network is the strategic pursuit of creating the dots with a view to making those connections work.

Anyway, this week’s “small worlds” in my life.

1. I bought a book that I’d had my eye on for a while – “Just My Type” by Simon Garfield. I’m not a designer – but I do like fonts. I’d seen the book reviewed – and a skim through in the bookshop convinced me it would be a fun read. I settled down at home to read the intro – and the opening of the book was about the Steve Jobs story above. I’d had it in mind as the intro for “my book” (when I finally get around to writing it!). Ah well, another excuse to not put pen to paper yet.

2. My last blog post was about Reflexivity. I’d never heard the word – and was struggling to find a meaning for it. Lo and behold, one of my twitter pals got in touch about something else – and I mentioned the word (he’s far brighter than me – so I thought he might know a little about it). He sure did:-

As it happens “reflexivity” of two types I am expert on:

– philosophical reflexivity that is concerned with the relation of concepts to experience & how they co-effect each other {example: no point in concepts of left and right if you can’t move. And that is what we find: kids with paralysis & motor difficulties don’t form spatial concepts like left and right easily}

– sociological reflexivity, especially in the work of Pierre Bourdieu the French sociologist (now dead), who pioneered the use of it in empirical studies that avoid dead ends by understanding reflexive co-relations {example: buying behaviour for Chanel No. 5 is based on idea of exclusivity. IF too many class BC&D women buy it exclusivity is destroyed & sales plummet. Therefore Chanel in the 80’s used jazz music in adverts because this put off C&D buyers & some B’s whilst A’s loved it. This re-established the “exclusivity” of their market & sales became stable again. This pattern is necessary to all long term perfume sales. Its a great example of the co-relation of cultural/economic reflexivity.}

3. My blog has been getting some serious traffic (for me) in recent weeks. I hoped it was that people had recognised my talent – but no! It’s the the release of the film – “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” that has triggered it. I wrote a post a while ago entitle “Dark Side of the Moon” – and it has managed to reside on the first page of Google’s search engine. Who says wordpress.com is no good for SEO!

The “small world” on this one is that also residing on Google’s first page for “Dark Side of the Moon” is fellow Bath Tweeter Marcus Tullius Cicer – @georgianbath!

Hoping to join the dots with my Roman colleague at a Tweetup in Bath soon

Reflexivity – I liked the word so much, I bought the domain name!

May 30, 2011 3 comments

Reading Mrs Moneypenny’s column in the Financial Times is a regular weekend treat. The FT Weekend is the only printed newspaper that I buy each week – and her column is a must read.

Mrs M’s columns can seldom be judged by their titles. This week it’s called “Me, go on a diet? Fat chance”. At the end of the article is a mention of Lynda Gratton’s book “The Shift”. Mrs M tells me she is an expert on the future of work – so I couldn’t resist an explore.

As regular readers will know, as well as extolling the value of Personal Networks – my blog posts track many areas of life. They also touch on my personal quest to find

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a new life after funemployment.

Lynda’s view on life and work is a hit with me – and I’ve only watched her promotional video clip (below) and read the first few chapters of her book (I will do a review when I’ve finished it).

http://vimeo.com/22283151

I liked her focus in the video on three big shifts in thinking:-

=> Forget about being a generalist – learn mastery
=> It’s not about competing – build relationships with your “posse”
=> Decide on the life you want to lead – work to do exciting productive stuff

It encouraged me to download the book and start to read. I’m hooked…

Most importantly, I found a new, cool word to add to my vocabulary “REFLEXIVITY”. It’s hard to find a good definition of “reflexivity”. Wikipedia gives much more than its usual definition – and has different angles from Sociology, Economics and Anthropology! The one I liked the most was from Lynda – “the invention of the self through debate and self-reflection.” She also talks about what she calls “The Rise of Reflexivity”:-

“As families become rearranged, and work groups become increasingly diverse, so people begin to think more deeply about themselves, what is important to them and the lives they want to construct. This reflexivity becomes crucial to understanding choices and creating energy and courage to make the tough decisions and trade-offs that will be necessary.”

In my work on Personal Networks – I seem to be tracking similar lines. I have come to the conclusion that there are probably just three elements to building a successful and enriching life:-

1. Who am I? Understanding who you are, your strengths and weaknesses, what gives you energy, what turns you off, etc. For example, I love the work of people like Usman Sheikh at Identifii (who I wrote about a few months ago) who aims to stop 75% of graduates ending up in jobs they dislike by offering no-cost/low cost psychometric testing.

2. What do I want to do? This is finding the passion in your life that means you fulfil the Confucius quotation: “Choose a job you like and you will never have to work a day in your life.” (Was that really Confucius – or just a recruitment agency advert!!??)

3. Who do I know? Having people around you who share your passion, give you energy and will be on the journey with you. Reciprocally balanced by you having the good nature to give more back than you get.

It’s worth taking time out to think and reflect on these things. Getting it right is a life’s work. Reading another article in the FT Weekend by Gillian Tett “Retire? Only in Europe …” Gillians says: “As a 43-year-old Brit, I used to assume I was halfway through my working career, but I am starting to rethink. Could “retirement” eventually turn into a quaint 20th-century idea? Could we all have more “lives” ahead of us than we realise?” A life’s work will mean working all your life.

So reflexivity should definitely be on your to-do list. Anyway, I’ve become the Victor Kiam of words – I liked it so much, I bought the domain name. Coming soon at http://reflexivity.me….

It’s Complicated

February 10, 2011 6 comments

I’m feeling the pressure. I’ve set my self this task of understanding the dynamics and value of Personal Networks. And – it’s complicated.

I started the process by devouring as many books as I could on the subject – the bookshelf continues to fill, but I seem to find less and less time to absorb in this format.

In some ways, book reading has been replaced by the wonderful world of

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blogs and twitter. I’m spending time filtering the feed of information – and reading up-to-date opinion. Fascinating – but still the clouds aren’t clearing.

The most satisfying is getting to talk to people on-line (and occasionally face to face) – and this conjures up a whole other set of questions or investigations. For example, one of my new on-line friends (not mentioned yesterday – as he has 3 twitter profiles and I think he likes to be a little “enigmatic”) – said I might be better spending time with philosophy to understand Personal Networks. He said: “This is because philosophy is, long term, probably the best discipline for ‘thinking beyond existing concepts’ and then coming back with new ones that can then be tried out to see if they make better sense of the data.”

I’m beginning to not only think that this is complicated – but that it will be a rather long job!

If you have read Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Outliers”, your will remember the “10,000-Hour Rule”. Gladwell claims that the key to success is a matter of practicing a specific task for a total of around 10,000 hours.

Seth Godin has a view on Gladwell’s “Outlier”:

“You win when you become the best in the world, however ‘best’ and ‘world’ are defined by your market. In many mature markets, it takes 10,000 hours of preparation to win because most people give up after 5,000 hours. That’s the only magic thing about 10k… it’s a hard number to reach, so most people bail.”

So by my estimation, I’ve so far given 1,200 hours of my time to the investigation of Personal Networks – only 8,800 hours to go! So by 2014, I might be able to give you an authoritative view! Wow – it’s complicated…

Keith Ferrazzi – “Personal Network” Survey

October 29, 2010 3 comments

As you will know if you have read this blog before, I like the work of Keith Ferrazzi. His books “Never Eat Alone” and “Who’s Got Your Back” are great reads if you want to get an understanding of the dynamics behind building a Personal Network. The style is a little “American” for a shy, retiring Brit like myself – but the principles are good. As you can see from the banner above – he’s much more in to rubbing shoulders with the famous than is realistic for us mere mortal Personal Networkers!

With the success of his books, Keith has followed up with “The Relationship Masters Academy”. I’ve seen a good

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review of it from one of my LinkedIn contacts – Peter Osborne who runs Bulldog Simplicity blog. He says: “As someone who participated in Keith’s Relationship Management Academy, I can tell you that Keith’s teachings will indeed change the way you approach relationship-building.” He also offers this link to download Keith’s “Executive Relationship Management Blueprint”, which is basically a “cheat sheet for everything Keith teaches”.

I found it very interesting to receive an invitation from Keith today for a Free Webinar on 4th November – “Networking Secrets for Thriving in Totally Screwed-Up Times!” It’s unfortunately at 9pm US time (so in the middle of the night in the UK) – however, they will send a link to a recording of the session.

To sign up, there is a brief survey – and low and behold … the first 4 questions are about “Personal Networks”. Give it a try – I’m chuffed to seeing the term getting more usage (as you know from previous posts – the term hardly registers on Google at the moment).

There’s an interesting study in Chris Brogan & Julien Smith’s book “Trust Agents” about how the term “Lifestyle Design” was unknown until Tim Ferriss promoted the idea in his book “4-Hour Workweek”. Maybe I can get “Personal Network” to the same status (with a little help from Keith!).

“I’m right behind you” – but how far can that be when you are online?

October 3, 2010 Leave a comment

I spotted an article in the Observer today about Malcolm Gladwell’s views on Twitter.

If you’ve read my blog before, you will know I’m a big fan of Malcolm – especially his book “The Tipping Point”. His views on Twitter in the context of campaigning and protest have

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further convinced me he is one of the most insightful writers on the subject of Personal Networks. He “gets” the difference between the Facebook “friends” phenomena and real-life commitment of a Personal Network – and explains it clearly with excellent examples.

The Observer is following up an article Malcolm wrote this week in the New Yorker (“Small Change – why the revolution will not be tweated”). Please do click through the link and read – you’ll get a great article outlining the difference between “real” protest and Facebook/Twitter “noise”.

The story centres around the Greensboro Woolworths Lunch Counter protest in 1960. This is seen by many as the launch for the civil rights movement in the US. Malcolm’s writing clearly illustrates the bravery – and commitment – these protestors showed to fight for their cause. He argues that that commitment to “real” causes is made through “strong ties” – and this is a fine example. This is very different from the ability to have networks of “weak ties” – which is currently the domain of Facebook and Twitter. Malcolm says:-

“So one crucial fact about the four freshmen at the Greensboro lunch counter—David Richmond, Franklin McCain, Ezell Blair, and Joseph McNeil—was their relationship with one another. McNeil was a roommate of Blair’s in A. & T.’s Scott Hall dormitory. Richmond roomed with McCain one floor up, and Blair, Richmond, and McCain had all gone to Dudley High School. The four would smuggle beer into the dorm and talk late into the night in Blair and McNeil’s room. They would all have remembered the murder of Emmett Till in 1955, the Montgomery bus boycott that same year, and the showdown in Little Rock in 1957. It was McNeil who brought up the idea of a sit-in at Woolworth’s. They’d discussed it for nearly a month. Then McNeil came into the dorm room and asked the others if they were ready. There was a pause, and McCain said, in a way that works only with people who talk late into the night with one another, “Are you guys chicken or not?” Ezell Blair worked up the courage the next day to ask for a cup of coffee because he was flanked by his roommate and two good friends from high school.

The kind of activism associated with social media isn’t like this at all. The platforms of social media are built around weak ties. Twitter is a way of following (or being followed by) people you may never have met. Facebook is a tool for efficiently managing your acquaintances, for keeping up with the people you would not otherwise be able to stay in touch with. That’s why you can have a thousand “friends” on Facebook, as you never could in real life.

This is in many ways a wonderful thing. There is strength in weak ties, as the sociologist Mark Granovetter has observed. Our acquaintances—not our friends—are our greatest source of new ideas and information. The Internet lets us exploit the power of these kinds of distant connections with marvellous efficiency. It’s terrific at the diffusion of innovation, interdisciplinary collaboration, seamlessly matching up buyers and sellers, and the logistical functions of the dating world. But weak ties seldom lead to high-risk activism”.

It’s a very valid point – although the Observer article focusses on the backlash and “outrage” against Malcolm’s view from Twitterers.

As mentioned in my last blog, it’s hard not to be cynical about “friends” on Facebook when my 12 year old son has 310 of them (no disrespect to his obvious “likeability”!). Twitter for campaigning and protest is the modern equivalent of that famous quote “I’m right behind you!”. Trouble is that on-line your supporters can be a very, very long way behind you!

C.R.I.S.T. – Now I RELIABLY know who I should Trust!

September 5, 2010 3 comments

I finished Chris Brogan and Julien Smith’s book “Trust Agents” while on holiday. It’s inspirational – with nuggets and ideas throughout. I tried out a new method for marking up interesting points in the book – using Snopake Index Tab Arrow High Lighters – as you can see from the picture there were lots of gems! Think the arrows will work out more expensive than buying the book…

The book is definitely a 5 star rating – I really like their style and ethos. Key points being that you should focus on building relationships – and sales will

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eventually come to you. Becoming an Agent Zero (getting in the centre of things) is important. Also, as mentioned in my last post, they argued that it’s OK to break Dunbar’s number and have more than 150 contacts (but only in each different network).

My favourite section was the Trust Test. Chris and Julien have adapted a formula originally thought up by David Maister, Charles H. Green and Robert M. Galford in “Trust Adviser” (another one for my reading list!). They put forward that Trust has 4 components that can be put together in an equation that gives a value for trusworthiness! Cool… And here it is:-

(C x R x I)/S = T

So Trust is calculated by multiplying Credibility by Reliability by Intimacy and dividing by Self-Orientation.

Credibility = the quality of being convincing or believable. Higher score the better
Reliability = consistently good in quality and performance. They turn up on time.
Intimacy = the measure of the closeness of your relationship. Feeling comfortable with someone. It’s an emotional judgement
Self-Orientation = low self-orientation would be if you had enough confidence to recommend a better competitor. High self-orientation would be the guy who is only interest in you because they want to make a sale (and now!). Lower score is better here – as it’s divided in to the other factors.

It made me think about the people in my network who I inherently like – but often don’t totally trust. Later in “Trust Agents”, Julien and Chris hit the issue on the head – “RELIABILITY IS THE BIG SECRET”. Interestingly, the other factors are more linked to people’s character (and hard to change/train) – however, there is no real excuse for not being reliable (it’s a matter of personal commitment). None of us are perfect on that score (I have in my head a particular apology I need to send after completing this post to someone I forgot to thank for a bit favour – whoops!) – but reliability is the thing we all could work on to make sure we gain others trust.

Thank you Messieurs Maister, Green, Galford, Brogan and Smith for this equation and insight into Trust and Reliability in your Personal Network.

150 Connections on LinkedIn – should I retire on Dunbar’s Number?

September 3, 2010 4 comments

The day has come when the worlds of Dunbar’s number (which I love/respect/believe in) and my LinkedIn connections coincide! It’s been a tricky 24 hours, when the LinkedIn counter hit 149 – and my commitment and belief in Robin Dunbar’s number (150) collided.

Typical of my active and creative mind, I tried to find several routes around this:-

1. Find a justification for not complying to Robin’s thinking… Well – I’ve just been reading Chris Brogan and Julien Smith’s Book “Trust Agents”. On page 226 they give me the perfect opt out by

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saying “The Web allows us to work within Dunbar’s number. It means that we can build business relationships in different ways: Instead of just locally or in a specific vertical, we can channel and stripe and slide in many different ways.” Read more on Chris’s blog. Great – I can have 150 people in lots of different places!!

2. Can I increase the number from 150?… Amazingly, the FT Weekend came up with just that. Page 30-31 of the Money Section last weekend had an article entitled “Build your connections, but go for quality, not quantity.” I can now safely increase my 150 to 250 … yipee. “Andy Lopata, who has built a business advising others how to network, claims that in an age of mass social networking, too many people concentrate on the quantity of connections they make rather the quality. “It is who needs you and what they say about you that counts, and that only comes from building better relationships, not necessarily more relationships,” he says. Lopata recalls a speaking engagement last year, where someone showed off the 2,000 contacts on his Blackberry address book. Lopata was not impressed. “My response was: ‘If you phone those 2,000 people, are they willing to take your call?’ If not, then you are just carrying around a telephone directory.” A philosophy that drives Lopata’s thinking is the Law of 250, the idea that there is an optimum number of contacts to acquire. The concept was made famous long before the advent of LinkedIn and Twitter by Joe Girard, an American salesman who earned a place in the Guinness Book of Records for his prowess at selling Chevrolet cars. Lopata admits that his own database of 4,000 contacts is too big, but qualifies his support of the Law of 250 by noting that good networkers also have a broad range of contacts. “You have to get the balance right,” he says.” Thank you Andy Lopata and Joe Girard – I can have another 100 connections!!!

3. Quit while I’m ahead/Go out with a bang… What better way to go – than to make your 150th connection on LinkedIn ….. ROBIN DUNBAR!! Well, I penned a small invite (my very first on LinkedIn to someone I did not directly know). Amazingly, Robin has only ONE connection on LinkedIn – go figure!!

The result was…. I received a reply back to my LinkedIn invite from the lovely Kathryn York. I’d invited Kathryn a month ago – and she finally came back to me to pop in as my number 150 connection! I am delighted. Kathryn is the Archivist at Wolfgang’s Vault in San Francisco. We met when she showed my son and myself around their music, video and art archives at Easter when we were stranded under the Ash Cloud. If you ever want to know about music from the 60s/70s/80s in the US – this is the lady!

Kathryn’s reply to my request to be a connection (and if she used LinkedIn much) was eloquent – “I don’t use Linkedin much, or my twitter or my facebook and myspace hasn’t seen me in so very long… I do know that folks find all of this does help with connecting (kind of like if I’d ever answer that ringing home phone), so I say thank you for reaching out and I shake your virtual hand with a connection acceptance!” Having a great Personal Network is a lot about diversity – and I’m very happy to have Kathryn in my 150!

I will await to see if Robin becomes my 151st connection (and his second) – but for now I will continue to extend my network onwards (and upwards from 150) with diverse, fun, stylish connections like Kathryn.

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