How many meetings do you attend and later think about the question you did not ask? Do you attend events or social outings where you avoided meeting people who you share a warm and common connection? When is the last time you reached out to "friends", acquaintances, or your boss's boss without a request or an agenda?
We are all so busy. Sometimes inattentive to the people and opportunities around us. Each of us experiences these small world moments. Moments when we discover a connection between people we meet that surprises us. These moments arise when we pay attention, when we listen, and when we get to know each other beyond our superficial and often selfish interests.
Neither. We are connected to each other in ways that we will never know without making an effort to have a conversation that wanders, explores and learns about one another.
You probably have heard of Moore's Law–which essentially states that computing power/speed doubles every 2 years. This has been true for more than 46 years since Gordon Moore, founder of Intel, made this prediction in 1965.
I believe that our interconnectedness, our degrees of separation, or the smallness of the world, if you will, is also increasing at exponential rates. Much has been studied and written about our connections. In the late 60's Stanley Milgram conducted legendary experiments that remain the foundation of the theory of six degrees of separation–the idea that every person on the planet is no more than 6 people apart. Other research from the 70's, showed that Americans were 3 degrees apart. This was all before the internet, email, cell phones and of course social networks. We are so much more connected. I think in the last 5 years, we have doubled our interconnectedness. So what does that make people in the US–1.5 degrees of separation?!! So the world IS getting smaller.
One of the things I like about Linked-in is the way that you see how you are connected to people, the levels of the connections and the proximity of the relationship. It facilitates ways to check up on people and to request introductions. You can quickly see the people who are well connected and those who are not. Of course sheer numbers do not tell the complete story, as much as the quality of the people in it.
Malcolm Gladwell wrote in his seminal book, The Tipping Point about the Law of the Few. That a small group of people are better Connectors who have a much stronger ability to develop and maintain relationships. The Connectors are network hubs and can accelerate connections.
How many Connectors do you know?
Every time I make the extra effort, it always pays off. One of the most amusing moments happened a couple of weeks ago. I was at a large meeting of my national foundation colleagues and I took note of several I wanted to meet to compare notes. I saw an open seat next to one of them at dinner and introduced myself. His name was Sean from Chicago and about 25 years my junior. So there were no apparent connections. I resisted talking too much or grilling him like an aspiring 60 Minutes reporter. Instead I asked, "What are you working on now?" He launched into an energetic and engaging description of his work on a new strategic plan. That's when we had our "small world" moment. He mentioned one of my closest friends Nat Irvin, who lives in Louisville Kentucky, as a great source of "out-of-the box" ideas. My eyes opened up wide and I realized that Nat's assistant emailed the day before to introduce me to Sean. I agreed to be connected to Sean. Early this morning I received an e-mail from my dinner mate to schedule a long distant conference call. Clearly, he had not put 2 and 2 together either! I looked at him with a smile, "You e-mailed me this morning!" He looked at me with real surprise and he blurted out, "Who are you?!!" It was so funny. Nat referred him to me to also assist with his strategic planning. That morning we were planning an inconvenient telephone call, and now we were having a robust face to face meeting. Now thats a small world.
As I have said, you don't know who you are sitting next to.
We all have these stories. I am telling you they are not luck or coincidence. The world is small and shrinking. The world will remain a daunting, vast and mysterious place, unless we look for, listen for, and reveal the amazing connections we share.
Thanks for reading. John