Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Reality-mine your way to the super-connectors...

I just read a great piece from Wired magazine columnist Clive Thompson from the current (August 2008, "The How To Issue") issue, which adds another dimension to discussions on social networking. Also, it helped me put some recent developments in my own office into a new perspective. Specifically, among the employees of the various companies I work with (none of which are in the state where I reside), very few people seem to know everything -- and getting up-to-speed often requires me to try to determine who knows what... and to hit the various in-the-know people up individually for their takes, which together can help form a pretty good image of reality. In other words, being truly informed requires me to keep tabs on the best sources and to keep in-touch with those people regularly. Social networking plays a big part of this for me -- in that Facebook, LinkedIn and MySpace can form a bridge -- but it's the regular, direct communication with those friends which provides the really valuable, actionable information (or the 'scuttlebutt,' to use the term I picked up from my friends in the Navy).

For his piece, entitled "Close Encounters," Mr. Thompson made a direct connection with Benjamin Waber, a PhD student in MIT's Human Dynamics Group. Findings of Mr. Waber's studies reportedly include the fact that in the organizations he has studied, managers are not usually the crucial individuals distributing news to their colleagues -- but rather, "It's some random guy." The story explains that investigations into "reality mining" are producing new insights into the inner-workings of social networks. I encourage you to read the piece, at least in part to determine if my takeaway truly applies. To me, the piece offers validation of a trade-secret of great salespeople, who know that the receptionist, executive secretary or other non-executive employees often hold the keys to understanding what's really going on in any given organization. If you really want to know what's going on, you've got to locate the "super-connectors," and keep in close contact.