Friend of a Friend. How Hidden Networks Can Transform Your Life
Listen to Episode 147:
Episode 147 Transcript:
Chris Curran: Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper and Scott Harper − Episode 147: “Create New Opportunities Through Your Hidden Network.”
This episode is brought to you by Business Advancement Incorporated − enabling successful leaders and companies to accelerate to their next level of success. On the web at businessadvance.com. And now, here’s Pam and Scott.
Pam Harper: Thanks Chris. I’m Pam Harper, Founding Partner and CEO of Business Advancement Incorporated, and right across from me as always is business partner and husband, Scott Harper. Hi Scott.
Scott Harper: Hi Pam. It’s always a pleasure to join you for another episode of Growth Igniters Radio. As always, our purpose is to spark new insights, inspiration, and immediately useful ideas for visionary leaders to accelerate themselves − and their companies − to their next level of game-changing innovation, growth, and success.
Now, Pam, we’re often asked how we find our best opportunities in our business.
Pam Harper: Well, people often find us. We speak at conferences; we’re guests on other podcasts; we publish our own articles; we appear in magazines, and we’re on social media. But there’s more. We create our best opportunities through our network, which we also refer to as our community. This consists of relationships we’ve developed over the years in all different areas of our lives.
In fact, all of the people who made this episode possible, from our producer, Chris Curran to our administrative associate, Gloria Luzier, and even our guest, David Burkus, actually came to us through friends of friends. We took the time to create value with people in our networks so that when we told them what we were doing with our podcast and we asked them, “Who do you know for a producer, for the administrative associate, for a guest,” we received high-quality introductions.
Scott Harper: Now, of course, a lot went into building those relationships to get those outcomes. We find that the most valuable relationships in our community have come when we take the time to build mutuality, and that leads to trust.
Pam Harper: I agree. However, there are still a lot of misconceptions about networks and how to make the most of them. That’s why we’re revisiting our conversation that featured David Burkus we had just after he launched his newest award-winning book in May 2018. It’s called Friend of a Friend: Understanding the Hidden Networks That Can Transform Your Life.
Here’s a bit about his background: David is an educator, speaker and author of two other books. He writes for Harvard Business Review, Forbes, Psychology Today, Fast Company and other business publications. He’s also host of the podcast, The DailyBurk. David’s innovative views on leadership have earned him invitations to speak to leaders from a variety of organizations, from Fortune 500 companies to military leaders at the US Naval Academy and Naval Postgraduate School. His Ted talk has been viewed over one point 8 million times.
He’s also an Associate Professor of Management at Oral Roberts University; his areas are organizational behavior, creativity and innovation and strategic leadership. You can see David’s complete bio by going to growthignitersradio.com, episode 147. So with that, let’s pick up on the conversation we had with Dr. David Burkus. Stay with us…
David, welcome back to Growth Igniters Radio, and congratulations on your newest book!
David Burkus: Thank you so much. Thank you for having me back. I guess that means we did okay the first time around right, right? Because we’re back again.
Scott Harper: Absolutely.
Pam Harper: We did. You have to keep coming back. There’s always so much new to learn from you. So, tell us a bit about what prompted you to write Friend of a Friend.
David Burkus: One of the weird things is that I love networks. Notice I didn’t say networking, right? “Networks.”
Pam Harper: Right.
David Burkus: In some of my previous books, I stumbled into the work of Duncan Watts, or Brian Uzzi, or a lot of these researchers that are studying awork science, right?
Scott Harper: Right. Six Degrees, and so on.
David Burkus: Six degrees and so on − exactly. And there are certain phenomena that all networks have in common, whether the humans or computers, et cetera. And the weird thing to me was the opportunity. So I said, “there’s all of this research, there’s all this fascinating stuff, and yet when you look at a networking book, it’s a collection of advice. Advice from one guy or girl, on what worked for them, right? And then you should too.” And then, we wonder why everybody goes to those events and tries to put in the advice and then feels inauthentic. So, the big idea was to go, “Okay. Maybe what people need isn’t more advice. Maybe what they need is here’s how networks work, so you can see how you operate in one and then act accordingly.”
Scott Harper: Okay. So, what are some of the common wisdoms about human networks and why re these often misguided advice? Why doesn’t it actually work?
David Burkus: Fundamentally there’s that inauthentic piece. There’s a bunch of different collective advice. I don’t want to name names and say whose little thing is wrong, et cetera, but it really stems from this. The most common misconception is that a network is something you have, and that when you’re networking, you’re meeting total strangers and then you’re figuring out what you need to do add them to your connections on LinkedIn or your address book in your phone, et cetera…
Pam Harper: Transactional, is what you’re saying.
David Burkus: It’s very transactional. It’s very much about running up the score, right? But it’s not really about that. It’s about understanding that you don’t have a network, you exist inside of a network. What you need to do is get a good solid map on that. Who are your friends? Who are your friends of friends? Who are the opportunities? Or where are the opportunities you need and who can introduce you to those things? All of that comes from mapping your network, not just trying to grow it or add to it, the way most people think about when they think about networking.
Pam Harper: Tell us a little bit about understanding how our networks really work would help us to transform our lives, then.
David Burkus: Yeah, so, the biggest thing is if we think about… again, if we’re using that mentality of a network is a collection of people that I know because their email address is in my phone or their phone number is in my phone, then what we’re not looking at is the broader sort of three-dimensional image. Who do I know, and who are they connected to? Where do I sit in this network? Who’s too close to me? Who’s far away? What we call sort of weak ties, and we can get more into that a little bit later.
And also, who is one degree or separation out? We don’t need to go all the way to six, but there’s so much opportunity just one sort of introduction out, and we don’t regularly feel our network to see what’s at the fringes. We just look at the person in front of us and do a very transactional … “is this person helpful to me or not? Okay, I’m going to decide how much time to spend with him based on that.”
Scott Harper: Now David, one of the things that you’re sparking in me − you’re talking about networks, and that makes me put my geek on and think about neural nets. Whether it’s a brain or it’s a computer, you have to create the connections from one neuron to the other, and the more you have − the more interlocking they are, and the more multiple connections you have − the stronger it is. Is kind of an analogy of what you’re talking about?
David Burkus: Yeah. In the computer network world we often refer to that as Metcalfe’s law, right? The idea that a network itself gets stronger and more resilient, the more it’s connected. That’s exactly right. Like one of the easiest ways − once you understand that it’s not about your list of contacts in your LinkedIn, that it’s about serving the network that you’re already in, one of the useful and valuable things you can provide, is actually making sure those connections happen. Getting skilled in the art of introducing people who would benefit from knowing each other because you’re building those internal connections, making the whole network more resilient and then also, side note, you’re getting known as a person who’s generous with their connections, which makes it more likely that when you do need the introduction to someone new, it’s going to be there for you.
Scott Harper: And refreshing it, makes it stronger as well.
David Burkus: Exactly. Exactly.
Pam Harper: Okay. Well, that’s a good place for us to start, and to take a quick break. When we come back, we’ll talk more with Dr. David Burkus, author of Friend of a Friend, about finding and developing the hidden networks that can change the game in our lives and our business. Stay with us…
Scott Harper: This is Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper and Scott Harper, brought to you by Business Advancement Incorporated. We’re on the web at businessdvance.com, and we enable successful leaders and their companies to accelerate to the next level of game-changing innovation, growth, and success.
Pam Harper: We’d like to welcome all of our listeners, and especially our many new listeners. If you’re not already subscribed to our Growth Igniters community, you can get even more value by signing up. You’ll receive reminders of our new bi-weekly podcasts along with a link to a page filled with all kinds of resources. And on off weeks, you’ll receive a Growth Igniters post, about a two-minute read.
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Pam Harper: Welcome back to Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper − that’s me − and Scott Harper. Today Scott and I are speaking with David Burkus, author of Friend of a Friend, about how hidden networks can transform your life. David, how can people find out more about you and your books, and especially Friend of a Friend?
David Burkus: The best place is probably straight at davidburkus.com, which is my site. Obviously, if you type in at Amazon or posts like that, you’ll find out about the book. But, we’ve got a lot of free resources at that site so you can check out some of the ideas first. Try before you buy, to use sort of used car salesman terminology for it.
Pam Harper: Okay, so that’s a good way to go, and you can also access more by visiting growthignitersradio.com. Episode 139 and scrolling down to resources.
Okay, so, we’ve been talking about the concept of networks; now let’s talk about the types of network connections that are most likely to provide someone with new information and opportunities.
David Burkus: In the book when we use this term “hidden network,” we’re referring to kind of those people that are in your network that you don’t see because they’re not immediately available in your email box or things like that. They are your weak ties, or your dormant ties. Scott you already kind of hinted at this with this idea of refreshing, right? A series of studies show that one of the most effective things that you can do is make it a habit to regularly be refreshing these weak and dormant ties. Weak ties and dormant ties are normally two different things.
Your weak ties are the people that you know, but you don’t know that well, and you want to be able to look for reasons to get more connected with them to learn more about them. Your dormant ties are people you used to know but that you … for some reason or another, they let the relationship fall by the wayside, because they’re not close to you. By definition, if they’re not close to you, they’re somewhere else in the network further away from you, and the people that they’re close to, the odds are, they think differently, they act differently. They have access to new information, and so they become a bridge to new sources of information that you need.
Most of us know this. I’m not the first person to talk about weak ties. What we do though, is we often save that advice for when we’re looking for a new job. The truth is we need to make it a habit to always be connecting with these people so that when there is a need, it’s just one more in a series of conversations where we check in with our weak and dormant ties.
Pam Harper: Now, you talk about it in some sentence, like “weak-and-dormant-ties.” The weak ties would be, for example, just somebody I just met. Is that right?
David Burkus: Yeah. Or maybe even somebody you’ve known for a while. Like I have a lot of weak ties with the people that I see at the gym, right? And I know their name. I might know what they do for work, but I don’t really know much more about them because we only see each other in that context. So, it doesn’t necessarily to be just met. It can also be that we know each other, but we really haven’t taken the time to grow the relationship any further than that.
Scott Harper: Okay. So, it’s limited or transactional, okay.
David Burkus: Yeah. It’s surface level.
Pam Harper: Okay. So, the dormant ties of course are the ones that know us well.
David Burkus: Yes. So, these are people like former colleagues − like you worked together on a project team for a number of years and then they took a job somewhere else, or they got promoted, and now you don’t interact with each other, et cetera. They’re somewhere else in the network, either because of a physical move or sort of a vocational one. But you do have a depth of relationship; you just need to check in. These actually I think are the most potent because not only are they somewhere else in the network, with access to new information with access to new information, like a weak tie, it doesn’t take a lot to build rapport with them because you already had a rapport with them. It already existed, so checking in and refreshing that connection, is a smoother and easier, and really less awkward process.
Scott Harper: Yeah, but I imagine that there’s an art to that, because I know that every now and then, someone way from my past, will kind of pop up in my inbox, and say, “Hi. I knew you from this company. Could you do me a favor?” And I go, “What?”
David Burkus: Yeah, exactly. That’s that waiting to the − like waiting till you actually needed to do it. So, one of the things that I actually like to do, in the art, not the science, is, this is actually how I’ve started using social media. Everyone’s newsfeed is deluged with information. What’s interesting if you think about it, if you have thousands of people you’re connected to on LinkedIn, those are all weak ties and the weak ties who are broadcasting information about what’s going on in their life − here’s the key. I don’t click like or comment. I like to use that as a bridging off point to something else, right?
So, literary just today this happened. Somebody announced that they were switching which university they worked. They were moving to Cambridge in the UK, and so I sent them a congratulatory email. Didn’t click like or comment because they’re not going to see that anyway. It’s a deluge of those things. But sent him another email, and said, “Hey. You know, it’s so great that you’re moving here. I know you’re not moving until August, but I know so and so in this university, would you like to get an introduction so you know a few more people when you get there?”
So, I’m using what they’re announcing as the excuse to reach out to them and then offering them something. And then, the last thing I do on almost every one of these emails, is I’ll include the phrase, “What’s new with you? What else is new with you?” So, that I’m opening us up to a conversation to more chances to catch up. Not just that, like you said Scott. We all get those, “Hey. I haven’t seen you in a while, can you do me a favor?” That doesn’t go over well. But if that, is one in a series of conversations where you’re checking in very couple of months, then it’s a totally different reception.
Scott Harper: Okay. So, you’re giving a gift, and you are actually creating and stroking the relationship, and it’s not just a transactional thing.
David Burkus: Exactly.
Scott Harper: Here’s another question. We all of us, or many of us, are kind of tunneled into a profession or an industry or a niche. Is it better to try to go deeper into where we’re at, where we’re comfortable, or is it better to try to be a connector between different groups?
David Burkus: Yeah. So, in a weird way, the answer’s kind of “yes.”
Scott Harper: Okay…
David Burkus: By far, the best value is created when you are a bridge through what we call in network science a “structural hole.” When there are two groups, and they’re not connected, and you become that connector, you’re creating a tremendous amount of value for both of those groups − and for yourself, quite frankly. That said, it’s hard to be a structural hole if you’re already on the fringes of that groups. So, there is a certain level of trying to connect with people in that industry that needs to happen. After a certain point, new connections become redundant, and that’s when it’s to go, “Okay. I’m familiar enough in this environment. Maybe I need to learn about a new one, a new industry, a new profession, and be the connector between those two things.”
It depends on where you are in your career. Structural holes and brokers of those are by far the most valuable. But you can’t be on the fringe and really connect two groups. You have to be at least some level deep into that little cluster.
Scott Harper: Okay. So, you want to develop sort of parallel networks, and then connect them together, and that gives an extra boost of energy.
David Burkus: Exactly. In the book, we kind of talk about it − the people who are the most successful are the ones that vacillate back and forth between being deep in a group of team and then bridging out and spending some time connecting that team to another team and then going back. It’s not an either or always, it’s a … you kind of need all of them at different times.
Pam Harper: So, you said “depending on what point you are in your career…” What did you mean by that?
David Burkus: Let’s say if you’re 20s or early 30s, there’s still a lot of people in your industry that you need to get to know, right? And then when you are decently connected − and this could happen early, or it could take forever because you haven’t been focused on connecting with people in that profession − but there’s a certain point where every new connection is redundant. You meet someone, and you find out that you had seventeen different people in common, right? And it’s kind of weird that you hadn’t met yet, but it’s also because there was nothing to be gained from meeting each other. That’s around when it’s time, and it’s usually eight to fifteen years into a career, that’s around the time where you can really provide the most value, by being a structural hole, because you have a depth of connections to that industry cluster; you have enough clout to bring those people and connect them with a second cluster. But, if you’re 22 years old and you just entered an industry, and you’re already going to try to be a structural hole, it’s not going to work that well because very few people even know who you are.
Pam Harper: Sure. You have to develop yourself first. Well, speaking of developing ourselves, now in the book, you discuss how organizations that push an up-or-out development path of climbing the career ladder might be unknowingly causing harm to themselves. Why would that be?
David Burkus: Yeah. And this is actually a great example of sort of pushing too far into a cluster. If you’re in one of those very command and control, very up-or-out, climb the corporate ladder type organizational structures − then usually, you’re going to mostly spend effort getting to know just the people that are above you. Trying to get and build rapport with people who have the ability to promote you or have power or authority with you, right? It turns out that in one study, they coined this term, “Organizational Misfits.” These are people who bounced around to different roles inside the organization early on in their career before they found a path up. They tend to be the ones who get promoted faster, who make more money, who provide more valuable ideas because they are that bridge between structural holes.
They were bouncing around and looked almost like they didn’t have a path and like they were a worthless employee because they didn’t have a steady series of progressions and promotions, but in truth, the relationships that they developed over time allowed them to connect multiple different departments and get information flowing much faster. They end up being a more valuable person inside the organization. Most organizations know this is true, because you go up the corporate ladder, and then you get to a certain point and they go, “Okay. Well, now you need to rotate as part of your development.” But wouldn’t it better if you’re rotating through the whole career path, not just once you get to a certain level at the top?
Scott Harper: So, now, let’s dig a little deeper on that from a leader’s perspective. I’m at the top or near the top of the organization − what can I do to promote this kind of enrichment of the networks within the organization? This is something we personally believe in a lot. What’s your perspective?
David Burkus: Yeah. So, one of the first things is just recognizing you might have a mental model that blocks these sort of “misfits” from seeming like they’re productive. The biggest thing is, you want to encourage a culture where this is happening anyway. And some of the ones that I’m most fast are like, to give you an example, IDEO, the industrial design firm. They actually have a thing where employees spend a certain percentage of their time helping other projects. Not projects they’re assigned to, but projects that they’re expertise might be a benefit or even just that they’re interested in. And because they’re interacting with a different project team than the one that they’re usually with, they end up building connections further and actually it goes a little bit further. IDEO, where project teams are build based on the projects, so it’s always the same team all the time.
But that’s what I encourage people. A lot of people talk about Google and 20% time or 3-M and 15% time. Maybe it’s 5% time, and it’s not about work on your own project, it’s donating 5% of your time to a different team in the organization. So, that maybe you provide them some value, but you definitely provide a connection to that team, and those people will pay dividends in the long term.
Pam Harper: One of the things that many companies do is they’ll have cross-functional teams. But you’re talking about something that’s even beyond that…
David Burkus: Yeah. Cross-functional teams are a good way to start. It can sometimes turn into, I feel like I have seven bosses, right? So, there are some certain problems that come with it. But it’s certainly better than the silos, politics, and turf wars that befall most organizations.
Scott Harper: Yeah. You’re talking about something that’s near and near to our hearts, which is increasing the variety of connections, the variety of inputs, the variety of perspectives. We find that really enriches conscious decision making as well as unconscious decision making. Now, one of the things in your book that you talked about that really has us interested is this concept of multiplexity. How does that boost innovation and knowledge saving?
David Burkus: Yeah, so, multiplexity refers to the number of contacts that you have for a connection to someone, right? So, a uniplex tie, by contrast, is, “I know this person. I met them once at a work function. We only have work in common.” Right? Multiplex would be, “Okay. We work together but our kids also go to the same school, and we’re friends because we both love superhero movies.” And you have sort of multiple different reasons that connections happen.
One of the biggest reasons is that, if you’ve been inside an organization for about seven minutes, you begin to realize that the network of the organization does not look like the network of the organizational chart. And the primary reason that informal network happens is because people are building multiplex ties. They’re finding other reasons to connect. And in fact, this is where I actually think a lot of the learning and development arms of organizations can really benefit − by creating activities that are beyond just the work skills training that are reasons for people to interact and build those sort of multiplex ties. You know, the informal network is usually the one that moves information faster and more accurately than the formal network, and it’s because of these sort of multiplex ties.
So, you don’t want to squash them down. You actually want to encourage them far more often because that will share more information. More information and more ideas lead to new combinations of ideas. We call new combinations of ideas “innovation.”
Scott Harper: And trust − that’s at the core of that?
David Burkus: Yes. Totally. And trust builds faster when people have multiples ties. It takes years of a uniplex tie working together to build the kind of trust that a multiplex tie can do in weeks.
Pam Harper: Well, you’ve multiple touches as well, and that makes a big difference. So, we’re going to take another quick break, and when we come back, Scott and I will talk with David Burkus, author of Friend of a Friend, about actionable steps you can take to find and develop your own hidden networks. Stay with us…
Scott Harper: You’re listening to Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper and Scott Harper. Brought to you by Business Advancement Incorporated. We focus on enabling visionary leaders to dramatically increase momentum for game-changing success. And we’re on the web at businessadvance.com.
Pam Harper: Well, one of the big advantages to building strong and varied networks is that some of your relationships can develop and actually turn into business relationships that include various types of alliances and other partnering arrangements. If you’re thinking along these lines, we invite you to download our free special report on building powerful strategic alliances. We developed our findings and conclusions from a study which gathered responses from senior executives in over 15 industry sectors. While strategic partnering is becoming more important than ever before, over half of the senior executives we surveyed were strangely dissatisfied with the outcomes. Find out why, and what you can do to increase your return on your partnering investment.
Scott Harper: Learn more now by going to growthignitersradio.com; select episode 139 and scroll down to the resources section and click the link “download strategic alliances report.” And feel free to contact us if you have any questions.
Pam Harper: Welcome back to Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper and Scott Harper. Over the last two segments, Scott and I have been talking with David Burkus, author of Friend of a Friend, about finding and developing hidden networks that help create the game-changing results.
David, remind us again how people can find out more about you and your books, and especially Friend of a Friend.
David Burkus: Well, I’ll tell you what, the best place is probably the show notes for this on your site. The second best place is davidburkus.com where you can check out a lot of insights, worksheets, all that kind of stuff, as well as links to the book where you can purchase it and ways to get in touch with me to keep the conversation going.
Pam Harper: And David’s website, incidentally, is excellent. Do be sure to check that out.
So, this is the section of our podcast where we talk about the immediately useful ideas. Now, we’ve been talking about useful ideas, but these are the ones that people could just do as soon as they’re finished listening. I want to get right to it. What would be an immediately useful idea for nurturing a hidden network?
David Burkus: So, the biggest thing is figuring out where that hidden network is, how large is it, Etcetera. Who my weak ties are, and developing a strategy like we already talked about for reaching back out to them. You also want to be exploring the fringes whose one degree of separation away from you. So, I encourage people to get in the habit of asking your close contacts, who do you know in blank? With blank being the company, the industry, the sector that you’re looking to explore. Now, you’re not asking for an introduction, you’re just looking to sort of map it and see who knows what, right?
So, you’re not throwing it out, and you’re not waiting till I need a new job, or I need to make this huge decision, or I need to talk to someone from this industry. You’re kind of constantly asking that question so you can get a read on who are those people that you don’t see because you’re not connected yet, but they’re there in the network one introduction away from you.
Pam Harper: So, it would basically tell you how large and useful your network really is.
David Burkus: Exactly. Exactly. Not only how large in terms of the context that you’re not thinking about because they’re weak and dormant ties, but how vast and diverse it is because of who you’re just one introduction away from.
Scott Harper: Now, what about if you really do want to meet or connect with somebody specific, but you can’t figure out how you’re connected? How do you do that?
David Burkus: So, a lot of times the best way, if you want to meet someone specific … although I’ll give you two words of warning. Number one, it’s really rare that one person is actually the exact person that you need that’ll ignite something in your career or whatever it is. Number two is, the best strategy is to keep asking that question. Who do you know in… blank? Enough times to where that person that you’re targeting, that person comes up on multiple people’s mental lists. Right? And you want that for two reasons. One is, that way you can take the best introduction, have the best person who’d be the right connection to that person actually make it. Sometimes you get an introduction from somebody, and you’re sort of like, “I don’t know if I want you to recommend me.” Right? Because your relationship might be not that great.
The other thing that happens is you can kind of create a surround sound effect. One of the most interesting things I found in my career is that, often when I need to meet a certain person, when the timing is right, two or three people both put my name in their ear and then when we finally do the introduction, they’re sort of like, “Yeah. Everybody’s talking about you.” It’s not everybody; it’s actually two or three people sort of deliberately chosen, right? So, you can only do that if you’re asking that question for lots of people. If you’re asking that question and that target person that you want to meet’s name is not coming up on anyone’s list, it’s a pretty good indication that, that introduction isn’t right anyway. It’s not the time for that, and it wouldn’t help you the way you think it would.
I’ve had this situation in my own life where I’m wanting to meet a certain person, and then we even did and traded a couple emails, or had a phone call and then nothing came of it, because it really wasn’t the right time, and the two or three years later, we circle back and actually do make valuable connection.
Scott Harper: Okay. So, when spring comes, the seeds will sprout. All right. What’s a good way to invest our time and energy to create this diverse network new connections?
David Burkus: Yeah. This is probably the most exciting news in the entire book, which is if you are already feeling awkward at these sort of networking mixers, these cocktail parties where you’re supposed to be … you have my permission to never go to one ever again. The research supports that they’re not as effective as we think they are. What happens is we all of us — not just certain people, not just introverts or extroverts, or that sort of thing — all of us spend way too much time talking to people we already know and spend too much time talking to people who are self-similar to us. They look like us, act like us, have the same job as us, et cetera. It’s sort of a bias in human psychology, and it happens because when the only purpose is to meet new people, we end up meeting people that make us feel good in the moment with that conversation. Instead, what we want to be doing is spending that same amount of time.
But you can’t just skip those mixers and stay at home and watch Netflix and sit in your pajamas and eat ice cream. You still have to be going out and meeting new people, but you meet them much more effectively when you engage in what a lot of sociologists will call shared activities. These are things where we’re drawing a diverse set of people, but the purpose is something bigger. It can be volunteering for a non-profit board; it can be pick up sports league.
One of my friends does these dinner parties where people actually come and cook together too. And just the mere act of like, the stakes are higher; we have to figure out how to get along so that we can make this dinner not be terrible, is enough to build a deeper connection than if we were just sitting around with a pre-pared dinner trying to find a useful conversation.
Scott Harper: Yeah. In fact, in a recent podcast, we spoke to Ben Gomes-Casseres at Brandeis, and he mentioned that two professors from Brandeis just got a Nobel prize and completely different departments. They met each other playing basketball.
David Burkus: Yeah. It happens all of the time. Ben and Jerry, from Ben & Jerry’s, they met because they were the two slowest and fattest kids in gym class in high school and decided, you know, we want to work together, and eventually, they settled on ice cream, but they tried a bunch of things before that. It wasn’t that they met at some of networking for ice cream professionals group and decided to go into business together.
It’s amazing. When you open your mind to the possibility that there are multiple different reasons for connecting someone, that’s the multiplexity, and often the useful or valuable context for connecting is not the first one, amazing things happen.
Pam Harper: That’s good to know. Now, you actually have something in your book about some kind of online practice.
David Burkus: Yeah. In each chapter of the book we try and get prescriptive and go, “Okay. Here’s how you can do this into practice…” And because a lot of people think networking happens online, we go into, “Okay. Here’s how to practice it online.” Truthfully, most networking efforts online don’t work unless you’re actually mapping your offline connections. But there is one instance where it works pretty well, and that’s the … a lot of social media tools now, whether be LinkedIn, Facebook, et cetera, will have groups that form around a shared activity, around a very specific, sort of here’s the missions, here’s what we’re trying to do group, right?
And sometimes they’re collections of people with like mind who do similar things, and that’s great, but often there’re also, kind of, here is the purpose and the mission. And those are the ones that you want to seek out. You don’t just want to go to the networking group that has 10,000 people in it. You want to go to the one where it’s actually dedicated to “here are people in my profession and here’s specifically the mission we’re trying to accomplish.” And you’re going to have deeper, better conversations in those groups and hopefully, they turn into offline connections to people as well.
Pam Harper: So, a purpose is very important for a lot of things, especially if you’re looking at connections for game-changing growth.
Well, David, we’ve gone through this episode already, I can’t believe it. Do you have any final thoughts on Friend of a Friend you’d like to leave us with?
David Burkus: Yes. I guess the biggest thing would be kind of a re-statement of the thesis that most us think that you grow your network, and that’s not true. You exist inside of a network, and the way that you can get the most value from that is by giving value to that network first, and understanding that you exist inside of it and navigating it accordingly. It’s about running up the numbers on your contacts on LinkedIn. It’s a figuring out where am I in the network, and how can I serve it.
Pam Harper: Well, thanks so much for being our guest once again.
David Burkus: Oh, thank you. Thank you so much for having me.
Scott Harper: Thanks David. And thanks to you out there for listening to Growth Igniters Radio with Pam Harper and Scott Harper. To get show notes and resource links for this week’s episode, read David’s bio and the episode transcript or download our special alliance report, go to growthignitersradio.com and select episode 139.
Pam Harper: Until next time this is Pam Harper-
Scott Harper: And Scott Harper.
Pam Harper: Wishing you continued success and living you with this question to reflect on.
Scott Harper: How can I develop relationships with friends of my friends that could lead to game-changing opportunities for all of us?