The true nature of connectedness is about the quality of connections and not the quantity of connections. Though a lot of us know this on some level, we really don’t understand it. Perhaps we can’t really understand it due to the complexity of connections.
Hyperconnectivity comes from the type of communication and interactions people exhibit in highly networked organizations and societies. Most discussions of hyperconnectivity focus on the use of technology and how technology changes communications and interactions; today’s point is broader. Hyperconnectivity goes to the root of how we think and how our lives unfold.
To make this less abstract, I’m going to use some parallel examples. Each example illustrates the nature of hyperconnectivity in a slightly different sphere, but the fascinating bit is their inter-relatedness.
The Idea Node
One great idea leads to another. Right?
Wrong – one great idea connects a lot of other ideas.
The truly remarkable ideas are those that connect many different facets of the human experience and unites them under one meaningful structure. For instance, the greatest scientific insights are those that explain observed phenomena better than competing theories while also providing novel predictions. These types of ideas aren’t limited to science: best business practices translate across industries and create better systems, great designs capture the aestheticism of multiple ideas, and powerful programming frameworks allow for better programs.
Each of us can come up with a lot of ideas, and let’s be honest: the mechanics of blogging benefit a lot of people precisely because ideas don’t have to be great – they can just be. But the truth is, creatives don’t really want to come up with a ton of ideas; we want to come up with a ton of great ideas that connect with other ideas. The tighter the relationship between our great ideas, the more powerful those ideas are.
I learned about opportunities the wrong way. I was taught – indirectly, mind you – to assess opportunities discretely, by which you analyze the particular strengths and weaknesses of a single opportunity without necessarily factoring in the way that opportunity was connected with other opportunities.
I now understand that the greatest opportunities start chains that link to other opportunities. For example, were I to write a decently selling book outside of my true interests, I’d start an opportunity chain along a certain route. Were I to write a book within my area of interests, I’d be far better off, even if that book didn’t sell as well as the first one. This is because the opportunity chain that’s set up via the latter route is much richer and connected with more opportunities that I’m likely to be able to flourish in than the former route. The latter opportunity chain sets up a streamlined future.
The interesting thing about opportunity chains is that the buy-in to the chain takes work; it’s hard to get to critical mass on the right opportunity chains. But once you do, the chain sustains itself. Stick with the right chain, and success is an unintended but consistent byproduct; stick with the wrong chain and being successful is a struggle and difficult to repeat.
Old paradigm: “It’s about who you know, not what you know.”
New paradigm: “It’s about how you’re connected with other people’s networks, not who you know.”
What good is knowing thousands of people if very few of those people are willing to introduce you to their networks? It’s far better to know a tenth of those people and have those people connect you with their network. I am not at all saying that it’s not important to network with as many people as you can sustain.
However, it doesn’t help you at all if you’re just another networker. If you’re remarkable and add value to people, they will remember you and will naturally introduce you to their network precisely because too many people are spending their time yelling to get attention rather than thinking about what to do with people’s attention once they have it.
Be warned: the surest way to fail at hyperconnecting with people is to try to connect with their networks. The nature of the digital world has by necessity made us better at sensing network manipulators. Besides, trying to connect with people’s network is falling into the same “quality vs. quantity” trap all over again. Instead, focus on providing value to that one person by connecting them with other people, opportunities, and ideas.
One last caveat: trying to connect people with your product and service will trigger alarms; sell after you’ve added value in other ways rather than before. If you do this correctly, you’ll never have to try to sell your product or service.
Connecting It All Together
It’s fitting that the examples of connectedness are connected. If you have great ideas, then your opportunity chains and networks will become richer. If you have rich networks, your opportunity chains and ideas will become richer. If you have great opportunity chains, then great networks and rich ideas happen.
Another feature of hyperconnectedness is that the effect of effort is exponential rather than scalar. Unfortunately, we understand and measure our success using scalar thinking. We understand that one hour of work yields a determinable amount of yield. It’s much harder to measure what one rich connection with a person yields, but it’s usually exponentially greater than the amount of value that we put into the connection. The fact that the return may not be immediate also muddies things for us considerably.
Web2.0 has enabled hyperconnectivity in unprecedented ways and our thinking about hyperconnectivity hasn’t caught up. The problem that many of us have with social media highlights the last point precisely. Each person that sees and shares your content, service, or product amplifies the visibility of that product by the number of people in their network. It may not take off after the first person shares it, or the second, or the third, but at some point, it has been shared with hundreds or thousands of people. The tighter the connection of the people who are showing it, the more likely that it’ll take off in those networks.
Many of us understand the first part of the equation above and focus on the quantity of people seeing the content, product, or service while forgetting the connectedness part of the equation. The result is that we don’t get the exponential returns – we get the scalar return.
Lastly, hyperconnected ideas, opportunities, and networks pull the things they affect closer to them. Rich ideas “pull” other ideas together. Rich opportunity chains create other opportunities. Rich networks connections make second, third, and fourth tier connections tighter.
Whether it’s in ideas, opportunities, or networks, look at the quality of connections and think about nodes, networks, and chains. Set up opportunities that start rich opportunity chains. Focus on the big ideas that tie others together or that shift paradigms. Think about the value you’re providing to individuals that are part of larger networks. Connectedness is out – hyperconnectedness is in. Are you?
Hi Charlie – I tend to think it’s the difference between straight lines vs. nets or webs. The whole will be stronger/greater than its components. It’s hard to get your head around, but then all of a sudden – bingo!
(If you draw my name for the book, please move on to another winner. I’m in Triiibes and have received my copies already.)
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Amy Lightholder says
This is really interesting. It reminds me of an idea Margaret Wheatley frequently expounds on, which is that the context and patterns of which an idea, organism, or particle is part of are as important (sometimes more so) than the qualities of the entity itself. Moreover, this represents a worldwide paradigm shift from in thinking from “Newtonian” (which analyzed the world by breaking it down into smaller and smaller parts) to “Quantum” (which deals with the larger pattern of connections and relationships).
If you ever find the time in your schedule to check out her book _Leadership and the New Science_, you should, it’s quite extraordinary. In the meantime, you can get a smaller sample of the concept here: http://www.margaretwheatley.com/articles/relationships.html
Amy Lightholders last blog post..I really need to get into the habit of taking a mid-day break
Very thought provoking! Great article.
Right on, Charlie. I’ve been thinking in similar terms lately, reading about Cybernetics and systems theory. I also deleted my Twitter account in favor of actually reading a few good blogs (like yours) instead.
I like the term “opportunity chains.” Opportunities do not exist in a vacuum! There is a context in which opportunities, goals, ideas, human connections, etc. exist, and this context is extremely important for “productivity” purposes. A lot of time can be wasted making connections for the sake of connections, getting subscribers for the sake of fame, etc.
The funny thing about all this is it comes back to providing real value for others, actually caring about other people. Hmmm…there’s an idea! 🙂
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Mike Stankavich says
Charlie, you covered a huge amount of ground with this post. I agree with your premise that we tend not to sufficiently consider the secondary and tertiary connections to nearly the degree that we should.
I think that the scalar viewpoint is reflected by mass media culture, i.e. buying the super bowl ad to directly place your message directly in front of the largest possible number of eyeballs. As we all know by now, that has widely varying degrees of success.
The beauty and the challenge of developing ideas and yes, businesses in the hyperconnected world is thatthe barriers of entry have been lowered. That means more great ideas have the opportunity to get out there and gain traction, but also that means that anything that is not remarkable disappears into the background noise.
And it’s critical to remember that trust is more valuable than ever. If I dont trust you I will not allow you access to my network. And because I value my network, I will avoid doing anything to weaken their trust in me. If you burn your community’s trust, that bad news will spread even more quickly than anything positive that you have done. And even if you pull the content, google cache will still be out there.
I’m looking forward to growing trust, forming partnerships, and developing great ideas in the hyperconnected world.
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Seamus Anthony says
This here is good stuff. I enjoyed your thoughts on the nature of networking online and I especially like the idea of keeping your products focussed in the one line, rather than all over the place.
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@Betsy: It may be impossible to get your head around, as multi-threaded networks have really only entered our conceptual landscape within the last 50 years. Yet the Bingo! happens, all without the dirty looks from the ladies at the VFW.
@Amy: I’ll definitely check Wheatley’s stuff out – thanks for the lead. I could write for many days about the structure of paradigm revolutions, yet I think people would only want to read it for minutes.
@Duff: If I just said “Care about people in a genuine way and you will be successful,” it would’ve been written off as woo-hoo. When you explain why it works, people are still skeptical but they don’t feel like you’re throwing woo-hoo at them. They just then wait for evidence that it works, without taking seriously that they only get the evidence after they’ve done it. And I can’t agree more with what else you said, except for maybe the bit about Twitter. I’ll have to think about that.
@Mike: “It’s critical to remember that trust is more valuable than ever.” Exactly – connected communities are built upon trust, and without it you have groups of people pushing and prodding in the same direction. The “simple” addition of trust takes those groups of people and turns them into a community. Or a tribe.
@Seamus: Thanks for the feedback! Think of Seth Godin’s books – sure, he could probably be successful in about anything he does, but he’s been following the opportunity chains created by Permission Marketing for a decade now. And he’s not slowing down.
And the winner of his free copy of Tribes by roll of a virtual six-sided die is…Seamus Anthony!!
P. Annie Kirk says
Ahhh. What a relief! Thanks for this inspiring (and reassuring) post. The “idea architect” in me is rallied! Your description of opportunity chains really resonates & is mighty helpful in “selecting” the route when flushed with ideas. Love the “remix” – is more about connecting honestly with people – rather than connecting @ people. Thanks for your good work.
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@P. Annie: I’m glad you liked this one! I’ve often thought it’s one of the better pieces I’ve written in a while, but it’s laid fallow for a bit. I’ll be picking it back up soon as I’ve had some more insights on the topic and different ways to explain it.