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Networking II

(February 1 , 2007)
Intentional density is the thing that happens when a smart person pretends to be stupid. It's a slightly different problem than "overlooking the obvious" or "being the emperor with no clothes." Intentional density involves acting as if the obvious isn't.

There has been some strong feedback about Monday's column. In particular, the idea that poker might not be a useful charity event for the Recruiting Industry was not very well received. Also, the theory that solid social networking involves giving without the expectation of an immediate return seemed to be hard for some people to understand.

Of course, social networks produce returns for their investors. People would never participate in them unless that was true. The trick is knowing that credit-taking and the expectation of specific return destroy the network dynamic. Networks work because their members receive unexpected benefits, because being in the network is better (for everyone involved) than being outside of it.

There's no escaping the fact that networks can only achieve effectiveness if the participants are willing to delay gratification. That's where the idea that you have to give without the expectation of return. The conundrum is even more interesting.

As Jeff Hunter rightly notes, you not only have to give freely, you have to go in debt to the favor bank.

I would say that about 40% of the people who showed up at the Unconference made their decision to attend based on the fact that they believed that there was a better-than-even chance that I would make it worth their while. I believe they made this cost / benefit calculation based on the fact that I been around for a while, talking, publishing and trying to help others without a negotiated agenda about what I expected from them at some point in the future. I provided value before I asked for any value back. As I said over a year ago:

But the secret to participating in the creative economy (otherwise known as the network economy, or the economy of the community of practice) is that I have to pay in advance, before I ever get anything in return. And the market that I am paying (now there's a concept for you buying from your market) sits in silent witness to my authenticity, commitment and competence. Because each of the participants in my market is seeking the same things I am. Those customers can't evaluate whether I am worth adding to their market if I am not trustworthy, consistent, and valuable. (In talent markets value gets discounted heavily for lying and flaking out.)

The fact that the Unconference seems to have been worth some people's time means that they will trust me (I hope) the next time I ask something of them. There will be those who thought the Unconference was a complete drag or hardly worth their time. To those individuals I now have a debt: I can either chose to pay that back by continuing to invest in them and their community in a way that they find meaningful and valuable or I can lose someone from my support network. (Simply Hired Blog)

To suggest that the payoff for the organizing team and their employer has something to do with Press Visibility is to engage in intentional density. The Talent Unconference was an investment in the network by Mr. Hunter. He went deeply into debt (from a favors perspective) to make it work. He'll see a return, alright. You just can not predict where or when.

John Sumser © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.
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