The fundamental element that defines the quality of your life is the people you surround yourself with, the mutual value and opportunities that the relationship brings; the conversations, mutual influence and the engagements you have with them. Nigeria runs on connections and networking. Who you know is a networking game only a few really play right.
There is a stunning research from the sociologist Mark Granovetter, whose classic 1974 study: Getting a Job. He surveyed 282 workers and business people in relation to how they got their jobs and current business contract. What he found was that 56% got jobs through a personal connection. Of those connections, most were weak ties. Only 16.7% saw the contact often, 55.6% saw them occasionally, and 28% saw them rarely. This should be weird. But you actually can get too close to people or someone to be thought of when a deal comes to table.
In a world that can’t stop talking and networking, it seems like everyone should always be out there. Well, basic economics 101 shows that a degree of scarcity creates value. This is valid even for human relationship in circles, and brands in the market place. We can clearly be too in people’s face with our brand, product and self-till it loses value. The relationship between popularity and value is not linear. Let me break it down. Imagine value over popularity as a graph. It’s never linear but polynomial, say cubic differentiated into quadratic. Finding the minimax and maximum of the curve, is like finding what point Diminishing Return hits the X and Y variables of Productivity Curve in economics. You can actually represent it in a graph, (the curve will be like the inverted U shape curve, like classic curve of the Law of Diminishing Return). Your role as a CEO is to supply some level of selective popularity around what truly matters and not over stretching it. You can be too in a person’s face that they forget that you’re there. It’s a delicate rise though and your role is to find at just what point is best before a negative turn in the graph
We generally think the closer to those up there, the more they’d help us, right?
This summarizes a very personal central ideology I have always had and shared. Be friendly but have few friends. You don’t have to attend every party you are invited to. Don’t put your product in every shelf available, know your market. Even in your market, don’t over supply so the price doesn’t drop. This is a metaphor for human relationship. Networking is great and social intelligence is key. But don’t over-network or make yourself overly available. As a business man, being a connector is just enough.
Well, I know you’d be asking, how best can we all network? Every good networker is to know not to ask without giving first. And to try not to pour from an empty cup. Too many people find themselves in the high table of men without being really prepared so they lose the opportunity
The truth is, the fundamental of networking is built on trade by barter, that is value for value (from surplus to deficit) and vice versa, good networkers know to not start at that middle ground but to give value first assuming there is none to receive. It’s a good state of mind to be in while networking. The truth is, you can get anything from anyone you so desire if you can first give them what they need.
Whenever you find a good event to network, do it right? A good networking event technically isn’t based on the number of high profile people but more on the number of connectors at the event. There are three important set of guys in any social circles, events and groups. They are the;
Mavens – Experts of the current discussion the audience in engaged in.
Sneezers – popular guys and then The Connectors.
The connectors are more important than the high profile people. Chances that you are not a connector, for it’s a rare gift. Connectors are those select few extroverts, highly like-able with an extraordinary knack of making friends and acquaintances. Connectors are an elite group of people so expert in cultivating connections that they are the reason the rest of us are connected. If you can’t be one then have one always handy. It is advised to rather go for an event hosted by a connector (you have personal ties with).
It’s a false assumption that if you are thrown in a room of 100 Forbes Millionaires for 100 minutes that you’d get 100 complementary cards (talk less of having meaningful conversation afterwards that leads to deals). Networking is grossly misunderstood. You can always track a good crowd if the ratio is 1: 10 (1 high profile connector per a crowd of 10). The point now will be on how you can find a connector per crowd (in this case to know how many connectors will be coming before you waste your time and resources to attend such function).
How to identify a connector?
So, to illustrate this, let’s play a game, mentally or with a pen and a pad make a list of 40 of your closest friends (family and colleagues excluded), then walk backwards to how you met them, trace the sources and see if there is a trend, asymmetric pattern of correlation, or frequency of some source, see if your closest friends came from any frequent source. If so, then that common source is the connector!
Connectors are people who connect us to the world.
First of all, you rarely can network in any hall way more than 150 people (it’s actually a magic number, same way the human mind can’t exactly remember any numbers above 8 characters, why your phone lines ends up as that (the “080” doesn’t count). That’s why any wedding with more than that usually ends up in a jamboree.
In general, be friends or network mainly with connectors. Networking with successful people is overrated especially when you don’t have tangible value to add to them. You just might end up either name dropping or running errands for them. This is because highly successful people are either known to not be friendly, or for political motives, friendly but have few friends. Keep a weak tie relationship with a lot of people but strong ties with connectors.
The best advice is to add value. Be busy with building yourself, art and price tag till you wake up morning and people want to network with you. Networking works more for people who seem to not have too much time for it.
In this world where everybody is screaming your network determines your net worth. I still think it is grossly over rated. In this generation of internet, you can become known without forcefully being present to be known. Just do your thing in your corner but plus the Internet to it and you’d sit and be called upon. There is already too much traffic and headache in most Nigerian cities to be jumping from one event to the other all in the name of finding opportunity and networking.
Even generally, we are more generally likely to get a big break from people we don’t know too deeply at the point when you connected. Most break through come from weak ties.
Acquaintances are more likely to know something you don’t. They represent social power — and the more acquaintances you have, the more powerful you are. Make you acquaintances mainly connectors. Connectors are important for more than simply the number of people they know but most importantly people that know them for their value. Strive to be this, and continually share value but leave it at that.
Also, to be a networking individual and connector, ensure you know a vast majority of people from different field and not just one field and make them primarily weak ties; people you know peripherally. Strong ties are known to have over familiarity which breeds contempt. They are prone to hate, jealousy and strife.
The problem with strong ties is that they are usually around your space and circle too. Your friends like you call them, after all, occupy the same world that you do. They might work with you, or live near you, and go to the same churches, or parties. How much, then, would they know that you don’t know. Acquaintances and weak ties are more likely to know something you don’t. They represent social power and the more acquaintances you have, the more power. Add value and leave. Be friendly but have few friends.
Another way to network is to create your own network. I mean own your own platform, your own community, your own party like the classic book character, the great Gatsby. Start creating a community of diverse people who meet often. I stumbled upon a modern day Gatsby, called Levy. Levy is networker in Newyork. He is known for his parties. And in any one of Jon Levy’s house parties you could find yourself making fajitas with Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Regina Spektor and leading snake venom expert Zoltan Takacs before watching live presentations from Bill Nye the Science Guy and break-dancing pioneer Richard “Crazy Legs” Colón Levy may not be a Wall Street billionaire or hotshot advertising executive, but over the past five years, he’s built the Influencers, a network of over 400 interesting and impressive people that includes everyone from Nobel laureates to Olympic athletes.
Twice a month, Levy holds private dinner parties and TED Talk-like “Salons” in the sprawling New York City apartment he inherited from his parents, who successful artists now are living in Israel. As an independent marketing consultant specializing in consumer behavior, a diverse, strong network is beneficial to his career. But beyond that, Levy has a genuine passion for connecting influential people from different fields and seeing what these relationships yield. That network of diverse people is an asset we all truly need. Remember, the fundamental element that defines the quality of your life is the people you surround yourself with, the mutual value and opportunities e that the relationship brings; the conversations, mutual influence and the engagements you have with them. Nigeria runs on connections and networking. Who you know is a networking game only a few really play right.
Strategy. Business StartUps and Corporate Restructuring Consulting
Uwaoma Eizu is the lead strategist at Hexavia! He is a graduate of Mathematics with two MBAs and over a decade of experience working with startups and big businesses. His core is in building startups and in corporate restructuring. He is also a certified member of the Nigerian Institute of Management, Institute of Strategic Management of Nigeria and the Project Management Institute, USA. By the side, he writes weekly for the BusinessDay newspaper.