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“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!

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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?

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.

Reading List – the research so far … and the summer reading shelf

As mentioned,  I have been running up my Amazon bill doing this Personal Network research.  See the picture of my Personal Network bookshelf…..

I’ve created a list on my LinkedIn Profile – http://uk.linkedin.com/in/philobr.  I would be interested

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if you have any other suggestions. List – as of this evening – is below.  I need to get reading….

Profit Power Economics: A New Competitive Strategy for Creating Sustainable Wealth

by Mia de Kuijper

See this book on Amazon »

Phil has read this book

Recommended

Comment: “Mia actually signed the book for me – I’d gone to shelter from the rain in Waterstones at the back of the LSE … and I could not resist. Fascinating read – especially if you transpose her thoughts on power nodes as the business units of the future …. to individuals. One day, I will be a power node…..”

Trust Agents: Using the Web to Build Influence, Improve Reputation, and Earn Trust

by Chris Brogan, Julien Smith

See this book on Amazon »

Phil wants to read this book

Comment: “Bought, on the shelf … and soon to be read!”

The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference

by Malcolm Gladwell

See this book on Amazon »

Phil wants to read this book

Comment: “In my bag for reading on holiday. Will do a short review soon. I found an extract on Malcolm’s blog – and he kindly game me permission to use on my blog. Nice guy.”

The 4-Hour Workweek, Expanded and Updated: Expanded and Updated, With Over 100 New Pages of Cutting-Edge Content.

by Timothy Ferriss

See this book on Amazon »

Phil has read this book

Recommended

Comment: “I’ve read it – I got my wife to read it … and I’m going to send a copy to a few friends. Tim does a great job on getting you focussed on what is important in life. thought provoking….”

Different: Escaping the Competitive Herd

by Youngme Moon

See this book on Amazon »

Phil wants to read this book

Comment: “On the shelf – and will be read soon!”

Six Pixels of Separation: Everyone Is Connected. Connect Your Business to Everyone.

by Mitch Joel

See this book on Amazon »

Phil has read this book

Recommended

Comment: “Would thoroughly recommend this book. Mitch Joel is one of the ever increasing band of Canadians setting the digital networking and blogging world on fire. This book got me over the line to create my blog – and is a great read.”

Who’s Got Your Back: The Breakthrough Program to Build Deep, Trusting Relationships That Create Success–and Won’t Let You Fail

by Keith Ferrazzi

See this book on Amazon »

Phil is reading this book

Comment: “This is on my summer list – and I’m about 1/3rd of the way through. I do like that even though Keith is obviously a confident guy – he will share how he has got things wrong and helps others to learn through the occasional failure. More soon….”

Never Eat Alone: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time

by Keith Ferrazzi, Tahl Raz

See this book on Amazon »

Phil has read this book

Recommended

Comment: “Keith Ferrazzi is a leader in the world of networking. This books gives a great overview for anyone who wants to improve their networking skills. It’s a little “american” for a Brit like myself … we are a pretty reserved race. However, the principles and tips are excellent – and the principles sound. “

Six Degrees of Connection: How to Unlock Your Leadership Potential (Volume 1)

by Liz Dow

See this book on Amazon »

Phil wants to read this book

Comment: “I’ve bought this – and had a quick skim. I am going to read after the “Tipping Point” by Malcolm Gladwell – which this book and Liz’s work was inspired by.”

Brilliant Networking: What the Best Networkers Know, Do, and Say

by Steven D’Souza

See this book on Amazon »

Phil wants to read this book

Comment: “Brilliant (BRIGHT) cover – and an amazing quote/speech from Robert Muller of the UN in the intro/preface. On the reading list for the summer”

Personal Networking: How to Make Your Connections Count

by Mick Cope

See this book on Amazon »

Phil wants to read this book

Comment: “Bought from amazon – and on the reading list. I like the FT business books – I used one of these books (on Business Plans) as a reference throughout my business life. Looking forward to reading.”

Social Network Analysis: Methods and Applications (Structural Analysis in the Social Sciences)

by Stanley Wasserman, Katherine Faust

See this book on Amazon »

Phil wants to read this book

Comment: “Now – we are talking SERIOUS book here. Dan (my technical partner) and myself are battling for who reads this one first. I was attracted by the fact the book series was edited by Mark Granovetter (who developed the idea of “strength in weak ties” in the 70s). Will be a challenge to read … with my little brain…!”

How Many Friends Does One Person Need?: Dunbar’s Number and Other Evolutionary Quirks

by Robin Dunbar

See this book on Amazon »

Phil wants to read this book

Comment: “I’d read about the principle that you should have/only need 150 friends/contacts. Research lead me to Robin Dunbar (this is called the Dunbar Number). In the bag to be read this summer.”

Six Degrees: The Science of a Connected Age (Open Market Edition)

by Duncan J. Watts

See this book on Amazon »

Phil wants to read this book

Comment: “On my reading list – and on the shelf. Will get read this summer.”

Connected

by Christakis, Nicholas A., Fowler, James H.

See this book on Amazon »

Phil wants to read this book

Comment: “This is waiting to be read on my shelf. Flick through says that it’s going to be a great resource to understand about visualising Personal Networks.”

Bursts: The Hidden Pattern Behind Everything We Do

by Albert-Laszlo Barabasi

See this book on Amazon »

Phil wants to read this book

Comment: “The follow up to “Linked” – on my shelf and ready to be read this summer.”

Linked: How Everything Is Connected to Everything Else and What It Means

by Albert-Laszlo Barabasi

See this book on Amazon »

Phil has read this book

Recommended

Comment: “This is the very best book to give an overview of how similar our personal networks are to other networks (all the way down to chemical protein!!). He guides you through with anecdotes and thorough research. A copy should be on the shelf of anyone serious about networking.”

Love Is the Killer App: How to Win Business and Influence Friends

by Tim Sanders

See this book on Amazon »

Phil has read this book

Recommended

Comment: “Really enjoyable – and quick – read. Love his principle of being so positive in the business environment. I share his views on focussing on giving/doing the right thing … but as a Brit, not sure about all the hugging!! Buy and give your nice side a run out at work….”

Networking Like a Pro: Turning Contacts into Connections (Paperback)

by Ivan Misner (Author)David Alexander (Author) Brian Hilliard (Author)

See this book on Amazon »

Phil has read this book

Recommended

Comment: “This is a very good book to give you a view of the process of networking. Ivan Misner is an authority on the subject – and runs the BNI (which is heavily promoted throughout). Gives a good overview fo the principles of how networks work.”

Connectors – to be, or to know

July 9, 2010 1 comment

In building your Personal Network, it is important to identify early on whether you are a “Connector” … or you need to find “Connectors” to help your network grow.

The key principle is that there are a small number of people that are the centre of the social scene and seem to “know everyone”. We are probably in the minority here – and if so, to give your network the reach you want … you need to make friends with “connectors”.

Malcolm Gladwell’s book “The Tipping Point” gives an excellent

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illustration of this. Please try the test below (that is reproduced with Malcolm’s kind permission) – which is a short extract from his excellent book.

“What makes someone a Connector? The first–and most obvious–criterion is that Connectors know lots of people. They are the kinds of people who know everyone. All of us know someone like this. But I don’t think that we spend a lot of time thinking about the importance of these kinds of people. I’m not even sure that most of us really believe that the kind of person who knows everyone really knows everyone. But they do. There is a simple way to show this. In the paragraph below is a list of around 250 surnames, all taken at random from the Manhattan phone book. Go down the list and give yourself a point every time you see a surname that is shared by someone you know. (The definition of “know” here is very broad. It is if you sat down next to that person on a train, you would know their name if they introduced themselves to you, and they would know your name.) Multiple names count. If the name is Johnson, in other words, and you know three Johnsons, you get three points. The idea is that your score on this test should roughly represent how social you are. It’s a simple way of estimating how many friends and acquaintances you have.

Algazi, Alvarez, Alpern, Ametrano, Andrews, Aran, Arnstein, Ashford, Bailey Ballout, Bamberger, Baptista, Barr, Barrows, Baskerville, Bassiri, Bell, Bokgese, Brandao, Bravo, Brooke, Brightman, Billy, Blau, Bohen, Bohn, Borsuk, Brendle, Butler, Calle, Cantwell, Carrell, Chinlund, Cirker, Cohen, Collas, Couch, Callegher, Calcaterra, Cook, Carey, Cassell, Chen, Chung, Clarke, Cohn, Carton, Crowley, Curbelo, Dellamanna, Diaz, Dirar, Duncan, Dagostino, Delakas, Dillon, Donaghey, Daly, Dawson, Edery, Ellis, Elliott, Eastman, Easton, Famous, Fermin, Fialco, Finklestein, Farber, Falkin, Feinman, Friedman, Gardner, Gelpi, Glascock, Grandfield, Greenbaum Greenwood, Gruber, Garil, Goff, Gladwell, Greenup, Gannon, Ganshaw, Garcia, Gennis, Gerard, Gericke, Gilbert, Glassman, Glazer, Gomendio, Gonzalez, Greenstein, Guglielmo, Gurman, Haberkorn, Hoskins, Hussein, Hamm, Hardwick, Harrell, Hauptman, Hawkins, Henderson, Hayman, Hibara, Hehmann, Herbst, Hedges, Hogan, Hoffman, Horowitz, Hsu, Huber, Ikiz, Jaroschy, Johann, Jacobs, Jara, Johnson, Kassel, Keegan, Kuroda, Kavanau, Keller, Kevill, Kiew, Kimbrough, Kline, Kossoff, Kotzitzky, Kahn, Kiesler, Kosser, Korte, Leibowitz, Lin, Liu, Lowrance, Lundh, Laux, Leifer, Leung, Levine, Leiw, Lockwood, Logrono, Lohnes, Lowet, Laber, Leonardi, Marten, McLean, Michaels, Miranda, Moy, Marin, Muir, Murphy, Marodon, Matos, Mendoza, Muraki, Neck, Needham, Noboa, Null, O’Flynn, O’Neill, Orlowski, Perkins, Pieper, Pierre, Pons, Pruska, Paulino, Popper, Potter, Purpura, Palma, Perez, Portocarrero, Punwasi, Rader, Rankin, Ray, Reyes, Richardson, Ritter, Roos, Rose, Rosenfeld, Roth, Rutherford, Rustin, Ramos, Regan, Reisman, Renkert, Roberts, Rowan, Rene, Rosario, Rothbart, Saperstein, Schoenbrod, Schwed, Sears, Statosky, Sutphen, Sheehy, Silverton, Silverman, Silverstein, Sklar, Slotkin, Speros, Stollman, Sadowski, Schles, Shapiro, Sigdel, Snow, Spencer, Steinkol, Stewart, Stires, Stopnik, Stonehill, Tayss, Tilney, Temple, Torfield, Townsend, Trimpin, Turchin, Villa, Vasillov, Voda, Waring, Weber, Weinstein, Wang, Wegimont, Weed, Weishaus.

I have given this test to at least a dozen groups of people. One was a freshman World Civilizations class at City College in Manhattan. The students were all in their late teens or early twenties, many of them recent immigrants to American, of middle and lower income. The average score in that class was 20.96, meaning that the average person in the class knew 21 people with the same last names as the people on my list. I also gave the test to a group of health educators and academics at a conference in Princeton New Jersey. This group was mostly in their 40’s and 50’s, largely white, highly educated–many had PhD’s–and predominatly upper income. Their average score was 39. Then I gave the test to a relatively random sample of my friends and acquaintances, mostly journalists and professionals in their late 20’s and 30’s. The average score was 41. These results shouldn’t be all that surprising. College students don’t have as wide a circle of acquaintances as people in their 40’s. It makes sense that between the age of 20 and 40 the number of people you know should roughly double, and that upper-income professionals should know more people than lower-income immigrants. In every group there was also quite a range between the highest and the lowest-scorers. That makes sense too, I think. Real estate salesmen know more people than computer hackers. What was surprising, though, was how enormous that range was. In the college class, the low score was 2 and the high score was 95. In my random sample, the low score was 9 and the high score was 118. Even at the conference in Princeton, which was a highly homogenous group of people of similar age, education and income–who were all, with a few exceptions, in the same profession–the range was enormous. The lowest score was 16. The highest score was 108. All told, I have given the test to about 400 people. Of those, there were two dozen or so scores under 20, and eight over 90, and four more over 100. The other surprising thing is that I found high scorers in every social group I looked at. The scores of the students at City College were less, on average, than adult scores. But even in that group there are people whose social circle is four or five times the size of other people’s. Sprinkled among every walk of life, in other words, are a handful of people with a truly extraordinary knack of making friends and acquaintances. They are Connectors.”

My score was 22 – which I blame on the list being from New York (surely if we had the Pemberton-Smyths us Brits would have a better chance of appearing connected!). Seriously, it does make you look around your network and identify those crucial “Connected” individuals who “make things happen” for you.

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