Last week I attended the Upstate Unleashed Conference (virtually), with a great presentation by author and consultant Brad Feld (co-Founder of The Foundry Group) talking about hierarchies and networks and like all good presentations it got me thinking. Specifically it made me cogitate on the underlying concept of The Intro Machine and the Virtucard we are building.
The Virtucard in its initial iteration will empower professionals to build better Introduction Based Businesses by enabling their clients as nodes in expanding networks, where when the client shares their Advisor with their friends the Advisor is actually clued into it and can follow up with the Introductions, essentially capturing those Intros that get lost at the bar or kids’ soccer games. This is a nice thing but why is it important, and how can we then evolve TIM to something greater?
I’m not going to reveal my grand plans for world domination in a long soliloquy, but know that we are working behind the scenes to amp up the capabilities and thus the user value of TIMVirtucard. But we are seriously asking the questions around value of the network. Which brings us back to Feld.
Brad stated that the value of a network is not the way that LinkedIn attempts to define it (number of connections, not just first degree but the extent of the second and thirds), nor Facebook likes. Nor is it like Metcalfe’s Law where the power of a network is proportional to the square of the number of nodes in it. Under all of these the core focus is simple: more is better. Just get more connections, more names of people upright and taking nourishment and you magically grow your power to unlimited levels. Hogwash.
As Feld observed, the value of a network is the number of connections times the value of the connections. And the value of the connections is directly related to the quality and quantity of the information exchanged between these connections. So this is the essence of enhancing the value of your network.
How do you move more valuable information in your network? And increase the overall flow? It starts with you, because you can control your attitude and actions but only influence those of others. So focus on what you are doing within your network of clients and associates.
How often do you share valuable information with them? And not the blasted out mass produced crap from some home office in another state, but stuff that they actually care about? This could be technical information for other professionals, recipes for your favorite clients, on point information for clients with specific needs or interests? Tailor the messages you are sending and don’t flood the network with crap, and what you do send out is more relevant and appreciated. This increases the value of your communications and thus the network.
Also, if you are adding value and introducing clients to professionals within your network, the reciprocity effect will kick in. They are more likely to introduce you to others, which then adds additional nodes. This growth, as long as they are not “dead nodes” increases the value of your network further. It is not an overnight process, but with continuous work over the years your network becomes impressive and increasingly useful to all members of it, with you as the central node.
So as I did after the conference, take a few minutes to reflect on the value of your network and how you can drive it. How you can get valuable information from you to your people. How you can make being a client of yours carry additional benefits beyond the products you’ve placed or the work you’ve done for them?
Bigger is not better, but a combination of quantity and quality will drive the value. This is the pearl, the Big Idea I grabbed from the conference. Hopefully it helps you grow.