This story is all about connectors – not the physical ones that you use in networking. Well, it is about the connector that you use in networking, but here it is all about people, but people in the context, connected with the higher purpose.
The term “connector” is well known for ages. Connector here reflects another type of person – the one that sits in between many (online and offline) worlds and connects you to almost anyone and everyone you need in your business. They have strong networks, are surrounded by people, and usually are considered “jack of all trades” – being omnipresent and omni-popular within society. Books are written about them, guides are developed so that you can learn how to become like them, and workshops are held every day around the world to become more like Jordan Belfort’s or Gordon Gekko’s or our times. But here I am not talking about the negative sides of those individuals – I am talking about the amazing capability to connect and build their business based on those connections. This post is more about different types of connectors that are not that obvious but could have an amazing influence on your chances of success when you are … growing up.
“Upgraded” Connectors are people that are “all over the place” – and by that, I do not mean that that one knows everyone – it is more about someone who can connect people, resources, ideas, companies, environments, etc. In one way, a connector is someone that can put the right people in the right place within the right environment … you get the idea. They can recognize and connect the right person with the right idea, or connect the right organization with the right environment.
We do see them as a very valuable part of every network – they are expanding the network on the edges. Or expanding the network inwards in the organization – for them this is the same, given that they do that naturally, they see the opportunity and they go for it. The most effective connectors even do not do that consciously, they do their magic without thinking about it (too much).
Some of the tools we developed as a company are good in making sure that they can find the “internal” connectors, but most of them are blind to the “external” ones – mostly because external connections do not happen during regular hours. Connectors build connections everywhere and probably most of the (valuable) ones don’t have any link to the current organization or projects. But when he needs them for something, they are there.
Now, where are the connectors in our companies (or our environments)?
New Way of Work
Now the tough thing about finding connectors in your organization is the fact that it (should) be easy to interconnect internally and not that easy to interconnect externally, for different reasons. First of all, our work was bounded to the professional (corporate) environment where you do your work for 8-10 hours and then go home, taking care of your private and family stuff.
The new way of work is changing that – hybrid environments enable you to move your “point of work” to different locations, not being bound by work and home. For example, I am well known to do a lot of work from the physical location of other organizations – we combine meetings and workshops with additional calls and meetings that are happening too early or too close to the previous or next meeting – so it makes sense to do that from the location where you are. And that showcases how you work and opens additional interest in modern work practices and how to adopt them – something that any leader is currently interested in.
Having different ways to work today enables everyone to connect and lead and this experience is not limited to “only a few” – the opportunity to be a great connector today is equal for everyone.
Aren’t we All Connectors?
In 1960 we learned about “Six Degrees of Separation“, an experiment by psychologist Stanley Milgram – that established a hypothesis that every person in the world is 5 or 6 people apart. Connections are so strong that it should not take more than 6 people to reach anyone in the world. But that was in 1960-ties – when you look at today’s networks, most people are 3 steps away, maybe 4 if they are out of our digital network.
Is everyone in today’s digital network – a connector? Is anyone’s network super important to you, but you just need to find a context in which that network plays a significant role? Should you be careful when you are evaluating people around you and have a strong bias over shy, introverted, closed people? Or anyone else? We quickly learned that people are interconnected in very strange but effective ways and those true and valuable connections can be found everywhere and in places that you least expect – something that works amazingly well for smaller countries or communities.
picture: usual, informal interconnectivity map is an average, complex organization (funny joke, but I am sure it works pretty well for some of our organizations)
And as seen above, not all connections are productive and can contribute to your goal. Some connections are very dependent on the mutual value that both sides get from the connection itself, and if there is only a one-way relationship here, a connection is not going to work – you should understand that before you are using someone as a “bridge” to another connection.
Why are Connectors important to Startups, Growth Organizations, and Big Guys?
This one should be fairly easy to explain – when you are a startup, you want to share and connect. The theory of startup is talking about “changing your ideas” or “pivoting ideas” after you did a quick evaluation of your idea in the form of MVP or even before that one. A proper connector can give you many paths to many things: from the potential market, first customers, business connections, and new investors, but he can also point you to the people that can help you at the right time to learn as much as you can with the least amount of failure.
This need does not stop when you are growing – any step in your growth (scale) could require different connectors and I am amazed how little startups and young companies are asking for or looking for different opinions and evaluations as they grow. One of the potential reasons is that it is hard to recognize who is a good connector and who is just a hustler that is going to spend a lot of your time and will not bring any value to you, or your organization. We have found out that organizations are developing different “entry programs for a partnership” where they can evaluate your contribution but then also learn about what is the genuine value that anyone can bring to the table – on both sides.
Good connectors travel the world and meet customers, partners, employees, and all other players in the industry. They talk to different people about different opportunities and develop strategic relationships and, above all, an understanding of what the world’s future looks like. When they travel, they look at the local insights and try to learn how they can utilize them on a global scale. But most importantly they are not locked to the specific industry or territory – they are ready to explore and research anything adjacent to them – industries, local hot spots, customer associations, etc. Anything different and innovative can guide their minds toward new business opportunities.
What about Tools?
Is there an amazing tool that connectors are utilizing to be good ones? Well, I met so many of them that use a notebook (paper one) to draw their ideas, notes, contacts, etc., and they are not using anything digital. I also met ones that live in their favorite app or digital tool where everything they “own” is organized in a way that only makes sense to them. But you do not have to be an amazing contributor with a secret tool – you can start with the basic ones. Is LinkedIn the right place to keep the track of your connections? First of all, this is THE BEST easy (so far) place for all things (business) connecting. I would say that most of the people over there did not even start to utilize the benefits of connecting, not to mention that you have some advanced features that are part of the Premium capabilities.
But the most effective connectors use all of them (or at least they have 3-5 favorites). They would take notes in OneDrive. They use LinkedIn for connections. They draw things and diagrams on whiteboards and notebooks. They use all available social networks. Their teams are using Slack, but they are externally linked with others via Teams or Google. Not because they love complexity – they just do not care. They want to make the job done most effectively, and their brain network enables them to keep all those complex interconnections in different places.
Loosely coupled – connected and disconnected, but with free and open connections to do their best work with the organizations that “deserve” time that they will spend with them creating big things. They love to be a part of the growth and scale story, even if they think about themselves more like digital nomads than digital enablers.
Note Where this comes from
While thinking about this topic, I remembered that I already read about connectors – there is a great book “The Tipping Point” by Malcolm Gladwell that is describing the original idea, but that idea was not explored in the context of “making the stuff work”.
What is a Tipping Point? It is “that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire.”
From < https://www.ideaconnection.com/interviews/00012-The-Tipping-Point-by-Malcolm-Gladwell.html>
Now, I think this is a prime example of how an “upgraded connector” works. Not that Connector itself does not work properly – yes, people are helping you move stuff forward, but I started to think about impacts on other areas of organizational work – how connectors move forward stuff that was not even considered connected to the original idea, just because people that run that could not see it, or they were connected to “limited connectors”. The true connector will spark so many ideas around the original one that you couldn’t describe this experience as a simple pivot. In the world of startups, this would be a spin-off to a completely different market, industry, or business segment.
What can we Learn?
Few important things that you should know here:
- Do not judge people and their influence in today’s hyperconnected world. The younger they are, there is more chance they have an amazing network (or influence) list that can make or break whatever you want to do, or they can direct you to another, even more, amazing Connector.
- Connectors are driven by ideas and excitement – both to help you and also to drive something new and something amazing. The more you are open, sharing, and expressing your ideas, the better – they will search for more ways to be engaged and to help you – directly or indirectly (so, in Gladwell’s lingo, you need to be a good Maven to find a good Connector).
- Connectors do not care about the technology or platform that is used for networking. They are not religious against one platform of will-die-for another one. They usually use whatever makes sense for them to interact and connect to the environments and organizations that they want to be connected to. So, if you are an organization, do not be religious about the stuff that you use – that would limit the world that you see and understand.
- Connectors will work with you only if there is a mutual benefit and value. They do not care about game theory here and the need to win every time – they will look at maximizing for everyone even if their share of the pie is not the biggest one. But they expect the same from you: your benefit should not be the prime reason for that interaction but the ability to help someone, somehow, sometime.
Probably there is more stuff about this “upgraded thing” but this post is already too long. Time to go and connect some things.