Qualities of a Strong Network

In my last blog, Am I Part of Your Network? we made a case that for a true network to form, we would need to have a reciprocal relationship with another party. First Network Quality – Reciprocity

The reciprocity is required to satisfy some of our most explicit needs:

  1. Intellectual Growth – Are we learning from this relationship?
  2. Financial Stability – Are we financially benefiting from this relationship?

…and an implicit need:

3) Network Expansion – Is this relationship connecting us to people who can improve my Intellectual or Financial capacities?

As long as we continue relying on those provisions, the reciprocal relationships will remain essential. Not until we rapidly transcend into Singularity and by that create spectacular Intellectual Capacity and transform into quasi-biological humans, we will need to look for reciprocal relationships.

Since we are still a couple of decades away from such metamorphosis, we ought to look at how we could maximize our Network Capacity and keep it strong and thriving.

As our Intellectual Capacity (IC) and Financial Capacity (FC) fluctuate so does our Network Capacity (NC). When broadening our IC, depending how it flourishes, it can increase or decrease our NC. Here is how. Since the NC is a reciprocal relationship between two parties, growing the IC of one party in an area with limited general interest and need (especially if those don’t immediately add to our essential resource or FC) the reciprocal strength between the two is likely to go down. For example, a General Practice Doctor can have a reciprocal relationship with any human with the right insurance policy or enough money to pay for a medical visit. However, if the same Doctor decides to move into scientific part of medicine, with narrow focus on research and experimentation, his NC would expand in the world of Science and Medicine, yet at the same time it will shrink in absolute numbers since she no longer has reciprocal relationships with common patients.

Similar relationship exists between FC and NC. FC may, at first glance, show a strong upwards correlation with NC, yet increase in FC requires reciprocal NC since with the increase in our FC, our individual projects likely grow in size and become larger in scale. In such instances where FC growth is considerable, the NC will likely shrink as the number of individuals who can offer complementary relationships at that level decreases.

Consider a meeting with Bill Gates, as of December 4, 2014, Bloomberg estimates that his net worth is at over $87 Billion. Some fun facts, an average Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of countries in 2013 was $75B. Only about 65 countries from over 200 had GDP larger than Mr. Gates’ net worth.

Meeting him would naturally be a privilege for most people. He may even remember the names of some of the common people he meets and perhaps even smiles at them and maybe even shares his email address. Does this mean that Bill Gates is now part of their network? Though most would wish this was the case, unless there is a clear reciprocal component between the two parties, there is very little if any chance for that to turn into an actual NC.  This type of an interaction happens a lot with the President of the United States. By nature of his job, he meets a lot of people… A pic of the meeting shared on Facebook still looks awesome though!

Second Network Quality – Build a Coveted Network

We have established that a reciprocal relationship is a must for building and growing NC. There is more. Some grow their NC by leveraging their own coveted Network. This is how most lobbyists, political consultants, and fundraisers make their money. This is also how the politicians rise to power and businesses capture markets.

Third Network Quality – Maintenance

If for a period of time, we either don’t display the IC, NC, or FC that was the mutually beneficial component of an established NC, the NC with time will diminish and turn into social connections. For example, if politicians don’t consistently offer public goods to satisfy their constituents and attract more voters, their NC would quickly turn to a very low or zero value and they would be booted out of the office. The point here is that, a strong consistent NC requires constant maintenance, otherwise it quickly deteriorates.

In Sum

The Networks are relational and they are valued only if the relevant capacities are consistently demonstrated or at least the promise of those capacities is present and unobscure.  Stanford University or any other reputable academic institution is not simply looking for students. They intend to invest in individuals. They forecast that their students will repay at some point in the future as wealthy alumni. Your Neighborhood Councils, Corporate Boards, and others don’t just want members. They are rather after their members’ IC, NC, and FC.

In the same light, we do volunteer work, not exactly for goodness of our hearts, but rather for gaining IC, NC, or a positive reputation. In turn even a reputation can generate advantages, and not only from those who were helped directly.

All things considered, our network strength is based on how well our capacities align with another party’s needs and their capacities with our needs. We consciously and subconsciously always look for access to relevant skills (IC), funding (FC), and access to customers, skills, and funding (NC).  Happy Networking!