The Malcolm Gladwell article, Six Degrees of Lois Weisberg (1999), communicated the incredible importance of super connectors and their unique ability to affect real world transformations and change. In reading the article a number of social principles were communicated through entertaining stories of Lois Weisberg tied to important social research. It seems that the ‘Lois Weisberg type’ exhibit certain traits and functions increasing the fluidity and opportunity for important social connections.
From the article I extracted key characteristics that distinguish these social catalysts
- They are likeable and are liked by many
- They have diverse interests and are comfortable with people, making it easy for movement among different cultures and subcultures
- They are able to reach out and connect isolated parts of society
- If they meet you and you form a connection, you are added to their rolodex.
Also from the Article I found myself contemplating the following social principles
- The quantity of connections are more useful than the quality and depth of the connection
- It is the loose ‘weak’ connections that bear fruit
Knowing a ‘Lois Weisberg type’ has value
- You are just one step away from their assorted and diverse connections
I had joined Linkedin but had not really explored the site, or its tools. This assignment presented an opportunity to revisit my Linkedin account. I was surprised that of my 11 connections I found I had two ‘Lois Weisberg types’ in the midst, one being my bother-in-law. In conversation with him about the use of his Linkedin account he exhibited many of the characteristics of Lois Weisberg, and the theories of social connection presented in the article. My brother in-law has over 300 Linkedin connections. He explained that all his connections have been through real in-person meetings, they are people he has met from across the globe and in many different industries and interests. He says when he visits an airport lounge, or takes a seat on an airplane, he never knows what the connection will be but he is bound to find one! As he explained his interests are varied and he rattled his list of food, travel, restaurants, music, gaming, reading, public speaking, swimming etcetera. In his job as a North American Sales Rep, my Brother-in-law explained how valuable his Linkedin connections have been, creating rich opportunities. Through a sales meeting he will identify a business’ need and often facilitate solutions from his connections. His sales are made by developing personal connections through his varied interests. He is able to offer valuable solutions and in doing so make a sale. He also explained that the connections furthest from his center that have the most value because those in his closest circles share the same values and experiences. He used the following example, “I can help anyone find a great dining experience in my own hometown but if they want information about a great dining experience in Seattle, Chicago, or Winnipeg I call on one of my connections in the geographical area to offer suggestions, supporting the theory that it is the weak connections that bear the best fruit.
Letting loose a social catalyst with the social media tools on offer through the SNS of Linkedin and it becomes easy to see the potential of the media for expediting connections. These connections are expressed with real-world effect quickly. Within Linkedin there are opportunities to join diverse groups, linking people among diverse interests. Linkedin also includes tools to recommend and endorse the skills and expertise of individuals. Users of Linkedin can classify, group and organize contacts based on commonalities such as location, tags, industry, company, and affiliations such as UWO alumni. Linkedin also offers e-mail options for communication. With tools for membership in professional and interest groups, for endorsement and recommendation, for organizing connections and e-mail communication it is easy to understand the impact a ‘Lois Weisberg type’ could have to increase fluidity of connections for mutual benefit and transformative connections. Linkedin as a professional social networking site is beholden to the ‘Lois Weisberg’ type to realise its mission: “Our mission is simple: connect the world’s professionals to make them more productive and successful.”
ladwell, M. (1999, January 11). Six Degrees of Lois Wiesberg. The New Yorker. Retrieved March 4, 2013, from http://www.gladwell.com/1999/1999_01_11_a_weisberg.htm