Friday, February 15, 2008

Don't Underestimate the Strength of Weak Ties

The kick-off Career Networking Event at the Wayne Presbyterian Church (WPC) this past Monday was a great success. As is often the case in these events, they had an exercise that got you circulating from table to table. As is often the case when you get shuffled randomly with people, I ended up at a really fantastic table. James Barnes, who has been working with the WPC career group for some time and teaches innovation (excuse me, that's Innovation) at Villanova, was our facilitator, and he led us through some great exercises that got us thinking about our goals and our career paths in a whole new way.

I love brainstorming, and I love networking. Combining the two is a powerful experience.

One of the handouts at the meeting was a great two-pager called "Taking the Fear and Misconception Out of Networking." I asked around to see who wrote it, and I met Brian Clapp, a Career Management and Human Resource Consultant who happens to be in a career transition himself. Brian said he wrote it a few years ago and that he was happy to share it.

Here's what Brian says about "Don’t Underestimate the Strength of Weak Ties:"

Networking is more productive through casual acquaintances (weak ties) than through close friends (strong ties) because these more distant relationships provide much more diversity of knowledge, background, and connections than those that you are already well associated with. By definition you share a lot of commonality with friends, family, and colleagues. Distant acquaintances on the other hand are likely to be part of a very different network and are likely to know different people and have different ideas. Acquaintances represent a source of social power. In theory, the more acquaintances you have the more powerful you are.

An interesting perspective, and one that got me thinking. I definitely agree that diversity is the key to a strong and effective network. Lots of different ideas and perspectives blending together to form something new and unexpected. And, now that I think about it, I can see that close friends are less likely to be the source of your breakthrough event -- you have fewer of them, which means less opportunity for randomness and synchronicity.

You make your own luck. Get out there, create weak ties, and be open to the power of the random shuffle.

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