When we find ourselves in need of things, we often turn to others. Prior to the age of social computing, we had very few tools in our social arsenal to manage large, personal networks. Loose associations – people you know of, but have little contact with – were nearly impossible to track. It’s not just the people that are important, it’s what those people are doing, what they can do, and who they might know. Little contact = little information = little usefulness.
To compensate for this, we turned to institutions for information, recommendations, and inspiration. Newspapers, magazines, broadcast television, and books were the primary channels for vital information. Leveraging directories, compilations, and slowly culled advice from immediate and credible contacts was how work was conducted. Old-boy networks and cronyism naturally developed from this low-bandwidth, social structure.
Today, through social media, we can easily keep tabs on the actions of an unprecedented number of people. In both our personal and professional lives, we now have access to thousands of people in our network.
Increasingly, our social networks are comprised of networks of weak ties; networks of thousands to which you can present a need and have a very small percentage of people reply to provide a great deal of value.
For business, networks mean rapid solutions to problems, rapid access to markets, quickly discoverable resources, better human resources, improved outsourcing, and reductions in cost and waste. Understanding the inherent value of associations and rewarding them is a primary step in becoming a 21st century business.
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