Plug in to the art of connections

On Excellence

DRIVE around Vermont in the summer and you will see an extraordinary accumulation of heavy construction equipment sitting idle. I'll bet I see 10 pieces at rest for every one at work.

Transporting these monsters is no piece of cake. But still there must be an enormous opportunity lurking somewhere. If only we could find a way to connect vegetating machinery with active jobs - everyone would win.

American Airlines figured that out years ago when it began to lease unused time on its computers. Before long, providing computer services for others had become a core business. But the airline first had to find prospective users and make them aware of its new service - that is, connect the pieces of the puzzle.

Connect. Connection. These are at the heart of economics. There's no sale, no matter how exciting (or inexpensive) a product, until there is a "connection" with a seller. The problem is, the connecting process has always seemed smarmy. Those in "the connection business" don't do anything, or so the lament goes.

Thus we decry the prominent role, and attendant profits, of bankers, advertisers, wholesalers, warehousers, retailers and so on. These people don't plant trees, fertilize trees, cut down trees or build houses with trees.

Oddly enough, however, it is the connectors, not the so-called "doers", who usually transform society. Canal men, railroaders and now highway builders and telephone companies have done more to foster economic growth and innovation than the Procter & Gambles, the General Motors and US Steels of this world.

Connections are hard to "see", which is one reason we don't like them. We are still children of the Newtonian view of the world - a lumpy-object view that dominated for hundreds of years. But now quantum mechanics has upset the Newtonian applecart. Ethereal connections and probabilities of connections are everything. You can't talk sensibly about anything by itself, we are told by a new breed of physicists; you can only talk about the likely relationship of transient things to other transient things.

Management Maximizers, a San Francisco company, got the message. It provides substitute executives and temporary project managers for an impressive list of corporate clients. Suppose Ms X, head of human resources at LMN Widgets, takes a four-month leave of absence. M2 (or "M-squared" as it labels itself) pokes around in its enormously talented, 2,000-person "network"and finds several candidates to fill the post. Or perhaps a mid-size company is to launch a service that calls for telemarketing capability. There is little doubt M2 can provide an experienced telemarketing star.

M2 was successful from the start, but its repeat rate has not met expectations - despite rave reviews from clients. It seems the clients don't "get" network and connection power. "Our biggest competitors," an M2 principal told me, "are the half-dozen `friends' who come to the mind of an executive who wants a replacement." In short, M2's customers can't tell the difference between a handful of cronies and M2's immense network (and its ability to fit prospects to a customer's "culture"). This is just one example of failing to understand connection power, and failures are increasingly expensive. As the commercial world turns ever faster, more of its work gets done by temporary alliances and networks. Connection power - the ability to tap, then work with a shifting array of participants for a finite period - is perhaps the prime skill called for in the emerging economy.

If you believe in "connection power", give these a try:

q Hire "connectors". There are networkers who instinctively invest in connections and relationships. And there are others who reject networking as "sissy work". Hire those sissies.

q Train in connecting. Networking may be an instinctive skill (women appear to be better at it than men), but at least we can train an appreciation for the art form.

q Mind your calendar. Is there enough time in your daily routine for "connecting"? The number of folks who "hang out for success" (ie, play their network like a master) may appal you - better that it should send you a clear and urgent message.

q Invest in connecting. Electronic networking, within and beyond the firm, is all the rage. It's easy to do it wrong, but the networked company (done right) is on track to succeed.

q Open the doors. "Them and us" is not the way of networks, though, sadly, still the way of many companies. Until borders inside and outside your organisation vanish, connection-for-profit will not become the name of your game. And for survival's sake, suspicions about connectors (once called middlemen) had best vanish. Fast.

TPG Communications

Voices
On the last day of campaigning before the polling booths open, the SNP leader has written to voters in a final attempt to convince them to vote for independence
scotland decidesIs a huge gamble on oil keeping First Minister up at night?
Arts and Entertainment
Rosalind Buckland, the inspiration for Cider with Rosie died this week
booksBut what is it like to be the person who inspires a classic work of art?
Life and Style
techApple has just launched its latest mobile operating software – so what should you do first?
News
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck
newsThe 'extremely dangerous' attempt to avoid being impounded has been heavily criticised
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Messi in action for Barcelona
filmSo what makes the little man tick?
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: An undercooked end (spoiler alert)
News
i100
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding
musicThe singer said 'the last thing I want to do is degrade'
Sport
Cesc Fabregas celebrates his first Chelsea goal
footballChelsea vs Schalke match report
Arts and Entertainment
Toby Jones (left) and Mackenzie Crook in BBC4’s new comedy The Detectorists
tvMackenzie Crook's 'Detectorists' makes the hobby look 'dysfunctional', they say
Life and Style
fashion

Olympic diver has made his modelling debut for Adidas

News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Trainee Recruitment Consultant Birmingham

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Comission: SThree: The SThree group is a world lea...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham - Real Staffing

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Real Staffing are currently lo...

Recruitment Consultant - Soho - IT, Pharma, Public Sector

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £35,000 first year: SThree: The SThree group i...

Sales Executive

£20 - 24k (Uncapped Commission - £35k Year 1 OTE): Guru Careers: We are seekin...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week