What Determines the Value of Your Network?
The ultimate value of your network is determined by how useful it is in service to what you are trying to get done. Simple, right?
There is a great deal embedded within that statement though. It makes two big assumptions:
You know what your network can help you achieve
You know how to use it
Those assumptions are easier said than done.
As you think about the value of your network and what it can do, there are three main characteristics to consider:
Ease of connecting
This is by far the simplest measure of a network. It is very easy to take a look at LinkedIn and know how many people you are connected to (the depth of those connections notwithstanding). When thinking outside of human networks, Metcalfe's Law states that the value of a telecommunications network is proportional to the square of the number of connected users of the system. In short, the value of the network goes up quickly with every added connection. This implies that more is better - which is definitely true in telecommunications. Owning the first fax machine, email address, or twitter account did little for you until there were a lot more connections available within those networks. When we think about human networks, size is interesting, but insufficient to think about your network’s value. It says little about our assumption of what your network can help you achieve or how to put your network into use.
If we think about each personal connection in your network as a distinct node with the myriad characteristics of a human being, we begin to understand that not all nodes are created equal. Some of these nodes may have highly specialized knowledge or may know a wide range of people you do not know. If theoretical physics is something you need to know more about, a PhD in this area is likely to be much more useful than a liberal art undergraduate. Quality is at least in part dependent on the subject you are interested in at a given point in time. If you cannot easily discern that nodes quality or connect with them, their quality becomes less important.
Ease of Connecting
Your ability to connect to the high quality nodes in your network is dependent on a few critical enablers:
Mode of Communication (i.e. technology): Is there an easy way to connect to them? Is it as simple as picking up the phone and reaching out? Do you have to schedule an appointment to get together over Zoom? Or is a quick text good enough?
Receptivity to connecting: Is the person willing or able to connect? Do they find value in connecting
Communication behavior: Can the context of why you are connecting be understood?
Your Network’s Value
The value of your network is not easy to quantify, but building, maintaining, and nurturing your network is a critical element to enable the success of you and your business. Our undertaking at AFN is to enable leaders to utilize their network to create new opportunities.
What your network can help you achieve at any given time is dependent on needs that change quickly. Thus, diversity across industries, geographies, and experience increases the potential of achieving more.
Finding important knowledge and engaging in an environment to share that knowledge for mutual benefit enables that knowledge to be put to use.
AFN is deliberately to drive success and optimize on the size, quality, and ease of communication in the network. Your problem set will change, but your network exists to help you be resilient in the face of that change and find advantage in it.