Friend of a Friend

I found this book while listening to the Jordan Harbinger Show’s interview with the author David Burkus. I had already started reading Never Eat Alone and knew I wanted to start a series of books on networking so this sounded like a great next read. The pitch from the interview was this book was about the science of networks rather than about networking. I guess I would agree with that assessment of the purpose of the book. Rather than discussing how to find the right people or doing the right thing to facilitate relationships with an individual, this book’s focus is how to use the structure of networks to your advantage in building your network or getting things done.

The books follows a simple format. It starts with a premise derived from the structure of networks like how you are more likely to get useful help from your weaker relationships than your strong relationships. It then backs this premise up with a couple anecdotal examples and a study or two. It then briefly gives some ways you could apply this in your day to day life. I do like that simple structure but in at least a few of the chapters it left something to be desired. Very often, the studies were not discussed in as much detail as I would have liked and they almost never gave hard numbers. Words like “mostly” and “majority” were used a lot. Still, there were some real good ideas I felt I could pull out of the book.

Take Aways

Reengaging Weak or Dormant Ties

The first chapter discussed the idea that originally drew me to the book which was discussed during the interview. The idea is to look through your list of contacts, whether that be LinkedIn, Facebook, or your phone, and start reaching out to old contacts to make them new ones again. David even gave a great three part summary of how to accomplish this.

  1. Make a list of 8 to 10 colleagues who you used to have a strong relationship with but have not talked to in at least 2 years.
  2. Randomly select one person from the list and send them a message with an invitation to talk.
  3. Let the discussion be free flowing but pay particular attention for anything you might be able to help with and then follow-up after the conversation.

I really want to setup a system like this for myself and I talked about the same kind of idea in Never Eat Alone. One more plug for Contactually I guess.

The Illusion of Majority

This one also came up during the interview because it was something Jordan used when he was starting his new podcast. It is also something Tim Ferris used to jump start his first book. The idea in many ways stems from the Pareto Principle in that likely, 20% of the people in a network are responsible for 80% of the connections in that network. These super connectors have an outsized influence on the perception of the group and you can be at just a few events, talk with just a few people, and all of a sudden, the perception is you are everywhere.

The idea highlights the importance of understanding your audience, what matters to them and what they are paying attention to. I have noticed that whenever a new book comes out, the author makes the rounds of all the podcasts I listen to and I will admit that it feels like everyone is talking about this new book. However, when I talk with my wife, she has no idea what I am talking about because she is outside the specific circle of podcasts I listen to.

By targeting specific people, events or organizations and engaging in a quick blitz of numerous outlets, you can easily give the appearance that everyone in the know is talking to you, which can create the momentum required to make that appearance a reality.

Favorite Quotes

“Even though the strong ties in our life are more likely to be motivated to help us, it turns out that our weak ties’ access to new sources of information may be more valuable than our strong ties’ motivation.”

“Lateral or even downward moves across an organization are more promising in the longer run because that is how new and diverse contacts are developed.”

“Navigating your network deliberately – making choices about who your friends are and being aware of who is a friend of a friend – can directly influence the person you become, for better or worse.”

Though there are a lot of great ideas in this book, there were several chapters that really left me wanting more meat in terms of the analysis of the ideas. However, it is a quick read so I would still recommend you pick it up.

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