Lev Cribb's Blog

Are you a Connector?

I am currently reading “Tipping Point” by Malcolm Gladwell, and while I am nowhere near the end yet, I am finding myself hugely fascinated by what he writes. In case you are not familiar with the book at all, it describes how and at what point any given topic or trend reaches the tipping point – the point where it goes mainstream.

He explores how trends get started and compares it to the spreading of a virus. He identifies three types of people that are involved with the process of getting a trend to its tipping point:

1.    Connectors
2.    Mavens, and
3.    Sales people

Out of the three, I found the role of the Connector most fascinating – maybe because I fancy myself as quite a sociable kind of guy. Having read on a bit I have come to the conclusion that – at best – I am a closet Connector.

Gladwell argues that while some of the characteristics of a Connector (and I will tell you more about them in a moment) are genuine character traits, some can also be learned.

The other reason I was quite interested in the role of the Connector was a couple of chance meeting I had recently. But let me start from the beginning:

What (or who) is a Connector?
According to Gladwell, a Connector is someone who doesn’t only know a lot of people, but also somebody who knows the right kind of people, ie those that matter to whatever you are trying to achieve. Generally they are fascinated by the back-stories behind who knows who, and how people are connected. They also have the ability to remember these connections, the names, and indeed to stay in touch with all of them.

For some it becomes an obsession, keeping spreadsheets and diaries full of data – others have a more “Rainman” type ability to remember it all and have it on immediate recall.

That last paragraph blatantly rules me out of being a connector – but nevertheless I am interested in finding out more and indeed I can spot some traits in my own way of connecting with people.

Gladwell uses the example of the principle of 6 degrees of separation (or in case you’ve ever played it on a long car journey “6 degrees of Kevin Bacon”). In case you are not familiar with it, the principle is based on the assumption that you can connect any two completely unrelated persons in the world through a maximum of 6 other people.

Connectors are those people who more often than not are the ones who enable a connection to be made in less than 6 steps.

So – what does this mean for those of us who would like to become connectors? Well, first of all we have to be more open to chance encounters, which – unfortunately – means talking to the person we sit next to on the plane or talk to the person we wouldn’t have usually considered talking to.

We have to answer the question of “Can I be bothered with this meeting or conversation?” with a resounding “YES!”

A good example are meetings arranged via Twitter. Arguably, if you are on Twitter, you have never met the vast majority of people you are connected with. Nevertheless, there is the odd opportunity of actually meeting some of these connections in the real world.

A few weeks ago, one of my contacts @AJAG tweeted that he was going to be in Dubai and whether anybody wanted to meet. Until this point I had never really spoken to him and barely followed his Tweets, but for some reason I tweeted back and we arranged to meet – by the way, to anybody not on Twiiter, I know how weird this paragraph must sound to you. Bare with me!

AJAG (real name Alex) and I met and it was probably one of the most interesting meetings I have had in a long while. It was a bit of a Eureka! moment for me and a switch was flicked that seems to correspond with what Malcolm Gladwell writes about in Tipping Point.

I decided to keep an open mind to these chance meetings and on a recent trip to London got in touch with an old contact of mine. We hadn’t seen or spoken with each other for over 2 years. We met, and again it was a meeting somewhat out of the ordinary.

The content of these two meetings is irrelevant to this blog post, what matters is that they show that keeping an open mind to meeting and talking with people you would not normally speak to can be hugely interesting and ultimately beneficial.

Just to remove any confusion – I am not talking about your standard meeting with small talk, the type that you would have at a networking evening. No. What I am talking about in this post is a meeting that is entirely unmotivated by a business pursuit.

For those of you who want to know what roles the Maven and the Sales Person play – thanks for reading on to the end!

The Maven is someone who is the holder of huge amounts of information and data. Someone who takes great pleasure in knowing every trick in the book. They keep this knowledge not just for their own benefit, but happily share it with others – just because they can and want to. Connectors often get their info from Mavens.

The Sales Person is the one who persuades others that a trend is worth following. It is not enough to just have somebody know of something and for somebody else to tell everybody about it. The Sales Person is the one who people listen to and who people are happy to be persuaded by.

It is very rarely that you get someone who combines all three roles in one, but you can see how that person would be very influential – especially if he or she had a few mates who all shared the same traits!

So, as a result of reading Gladwell’s Tipping Point I have now created a new page on this blog. It’s the “Meet me” page. Get in touch and let’s meet – I might even buy you a coffee.

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