A friend of a friend of a friend


I was part of an interesting information chain the other day and wanted to share it.

No surprise to those of you that know me, I was walking the dogs and received an email on my phone from a colleague who was looking for a freelance contractor with experience with a particular, somewhat eclectic community platform.  While enjoying the sun I read the message and responded that I would see if there was anyone in my network.  First I quickly checked out the site using the mobile browser on my phone.  Then I posted the following twitter message at 3:50 pm

anyone have xp using world cafe? http://www.theworldcafe.com/. might have a business opportunity if you do

I received the first response at 3:56 PM. It was from someone I know and respect immensely and I would have had no reservation recommending him, I had no idea that he had the experience in question. Unfortunately for me, he is also a public servant and unable to take contracts.  A little later, 4:46 PM to be precise,  as I was drying two wet golden retrievers, I received a Direct Message from someone in Ottawa that I follow. He knew of the platform and I offered to introduce him to my colleague. He passed on the coordinates of an expert within his firm. I copied those and emailed them to my colleague, at 5:05 PM, my colleague replied he replied with his thanks at 7:05 PM.

Yesterday, (11 days after the original exchange) I ran into my colleague at the gym and he updated me. The contact I gave him could not do the project but knew someone who could. That individual could not do the project either, but knew someone who could. That individual is now lined up to do the work. I thought this whole thing was kind of interesting and created a little drawing of it.

A diagram of communications related to finding someone with particular experience.

A diagram of communications related to finding someone with particular experience.

There are a couple of things that stuck me about this.

First, the ease, speed and location independence of the initial email/twitter exchanges far surpasses what was possible just a few years ago.  In 30 seconds I shared an opportunity with potentially 100’s of people. Without the ability to instantly access that network, I would have briefly racked my brain and said “sorry, no one comes to mind, if run across anyone I will let you know”, a response that very rarely leads to anything productive. As it turned out a couple of minutes of my time gave him a lead and kicked off a chain of events that led to success.

The second thing that strikes me is the value of loose ties and serendipity. I am not sure what the business case is for serendipity but I do think that the ability of social media to enable eclectic groups of people to connect increases the likelihood of it happening, and I think that is a good thing, what do you think?

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About Thom Kearney

Change agent, teacher, arts, science, open government, father, mentor, storyteller, husband, dog owner,collaborator, not necessarily in that order.
This entry was posted in Collaboration, Marketing & Communication, Web 2.0. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to A friend of a friend of a friend

  1. Phil Carr says:

    Actually, this experience leads to an interesting discussion about the fact that consulting has become a true “organic” structure where professionals of different/similar capabilities are all busy on their own, but stay connected and find opportunities to morph teams together, which then fall away again. It would be interesting to map the consulting connections in Ottawa.

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    • Thom Kearney says:

      Very true, the new and old communications technologies have created a virtual nervous system of sorts for that new organic type of business organization.

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  2. Todd Lyons says:

    Talented people will inevitably become aware of, meet, and form relationships with others of similar background and high calibre. Followed outward, this forms a macronetwork of expertise. I’ve wondered whether this network performs better as you experienced it, where one person has a top recommendation that they can provide to someone else, or whether introducing the outlying members to others in the centre to reduce the degrees of separation would be preferable. Everyone would potentially have more names to offer, but could they recommend each with the same degree of certainty? I think there would be a combined effect. Each of us would be aware of more colleagues but inevitably gravitate towards one or two whose abilities we greatly respected above all others. Even in a large, interlinked group the same names would likely be repeated more often. Great post Tom.

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  3. Wendy says:

    Great post, Thom. I often find myself inolved in these types of information chains, whether at work or at home, probably because I’m surrounded by people who don’t use Twitter/other social media tools. As I user I can explain how such platforms can help to quickly seek out answers to problems (sometimes in combination with more traditional communication methods), and how they can make it easier to bring people of diverse fields of expertise together. If I know of someone working in an area that may be of interest to someone else, then I will at least mention it if not formally put the two in touch. I love adding value to the conversations that are taking place around me, and by engaging in social media I seem to be able do this at a pace beyond what I was able to accomplish in years past.

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    • Thom Kearney says:

      Add more value then you take and get free Karma!
      I think you hit on an important benefit of social media and virtual collaboration in general. It removes the barriers of time and space and to some extent hierarchy, making networking and adding value to conversations easier. Thanks for your comment Wendy

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