In Pursuit of Kevin Bacon
In the parlor game "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon", I can connect actors Robert Guillaume and Kevin Bacon in only 3 steps. This means that I can name projects in which either of them participated which enable me to map a path connecting one to the other in 3 steps. The game suggests a key challenge that many of us face in the new business development world...what is the most direct path to the key influencer and or decision maker for the value proposition we wish to share? Importantly, the true value of networking lies in being able to facilitate the desired connection, not merely to map it.
A couple of weeks ago, Roland Harwood of 100% Open observed in his blog (http://www.100open.com/2013/03/2-degrees-of-separation/) that in a gathering of say 30 individuals, there appeared to be a high likelihood of someone being able to identify viable paths to help advance an attendee's initiative. For example, one attendee personally knows the key decision maker for the type of value proposition that another attendee offers. Roland wishes to mathematically model this phenomena. While I personally couldn't help him in doing so (perhaps you or someone you know could?), his observation resonated strongly with me.
Roland is seeking to model the concept of "making progress", in the field of new business development and problem solving via networking. Networking can be defined in a variety of ways, but it ultimately boils down to identifying a key relationship (either with a principal or one of their close contacts) and the willingness to personally leverage one's own credibility and goodwill in order to facilitate a connection.
When meeting someone at a business gathering, once both establish sincere interest in building rapport, consider exploring whether it makes sense to go beyond exchanging business cards and casual conversation to evoke the other's interests and needs. If appropriate, one should suggest opportunities to add value for the other...either by offering ways to help them directly or to create a beneficial introduction.
If one consistently and earnestly helps others to achieve their objectives, one should eventually expect to receive offers of assistance in return. More importantly, in order for networking to be truly effective, one MUST seek to help the other party make "meaningful" progress (as defined by the other party). If you're sitting on the sidelines, you're probably missing out on many of the benefits to be derived from networking. You're also likely missing opportunities to meet many interesting people!
By the way, Robert Guillaume connects to Kevin Bacon as follows:
- Gillaume worked with Billy Crystal on the televison series, Soap.
- Crystal co-starred with Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally.
- Ryan co-starred with Kevin Bacon in the film, In the Cut.
Help Newtown Heal: 26 Benches
In the aftermath of the horrific Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, one of my friends, Mark Sigrist, is leading an effort to raise funds to build 26 memorial park benches...one bench for each of the victims. He is 1/3 of the way there due to the generosity of friends, family and neighbors. We would appreciate your gift too, of any amount. Please consider this worthy cause: www.26benches.com