Am I Part of Your Network

We speak about our relationships with other people all the time and often casually throw around the term Network. The common misperception is that people simply have an urge for relationships without a particular agenda. Most species including the humans construct complex relationships to improve the chance of survival. For instance, we are binded with our respective families because they gave us life, shelter, and other essential resources. We married our partners because they made us safer and more secure. We generally hang out with people from the same neighborhoods (in a larger context), with similar backgrounds, speaking the same language because the familiarity serves as a buffer against unknown threats.

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Most of these decisions are done on autopilot. We tend to connect to people who fulfill our immediate or short-term needs. Our current connections are largely based on intuitive analysis of the value that other people bring to us.

Now, we have found new means for our relational reasoning. With omnipresence of Social Networks and our ever growing list of ‘friends’ and ‘followers’, we feel even more soundly connected! But are we really?

Range of Relationships

Much of our success, be it in our personal life or business world, is actually reliant on our relationships. There are many kinds of them. The spectrum ranges from – hollow relationships that make us feel helpless and lonely – to highly functional that provide firm access to all our relevant needs and wants. The people with hollow relationships tend to have the least serviceable relationships, and can become dazed when things become dicey. On the other hand, a well-connected individual who does not always have all the right answers, enjoys access to the people who are able and willing to provide them. The latter is a sign of a person with a healthy Network.

Network Capacity

A Network Capacity (NC) is the total, real access to mutually beneficial relationships. These relationships vary in connection strength from very weak – Social Interactions – to very strong – Partnerships.

If we were to imagine our NC on a continuum, the people closest to point Zero would be our Social Interactions. These are the relationships that haven’t forged high-level, critical reciprocal association with us, but rather simply have direct knowledge of us. For example, many if not most of our Facebook connections (depending on how we use the site) and our Twitter followers belong to the lower end of the continuum. They are, by and large, Social Interactions, producing insignificant NC.

These non-binding social relationships emerge effortlessly at unplanned events, social engagements, and through social networks. Conversely, the Reciprocal Relationships that have a clear give and take require an effort and a clear mutually beneficial component to form.

People with a wider understanding of the principles of Networks, make conscious albeit non-formal evaluation of the size of capital and quality of other Capacities in each of their relationships. For example, many accomplished people analyze whether time spent on a particular individual will add value to their 3 capacities. Most, naturally do not use formal calculations when making these decisions, but rather derive at their results intuitively. You, on the other hand, can do this consciously now. Try this when you are evaluating a relationship with another individual:

Intellectual Capacity: will I or do I learn more from this person? Is there an expertise that the person brings that I don’t possess or I need more than I already have. If the answer is resounding yes, then I should keep the connection otherwise I ought to instantly cut it or phase it out with time
Financial Capacity: will I or do I get financially healthier with this person around? Or else, when I need some money, can I count on his/her personal wealth, becoming an extended capital or source for capital – like an external drive Network Capacity: even if intellectually and financially one is not at par, I may still benefit from his/her specific or vast network outside of my reach.

Now ask yourself if you are spending your valuable time on the right people. We will speak a lot more about these types of reciprocities in the next blog.