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?