Friend of a Friend: A book review by Bob Morris

Friend of a Friend: Understanding the Hidden Networks That Can Transform Your Life and Your Career
David Burkus
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (May 2018)

How and why “your friend of a friend is your future,” for better or worse

According to David Burkus, “This is a book about how networks work…a book that takes a deep dive into the proven science of networks and shares the implications for anyone looking to upgrade their connections and relationships…Knowing how networks come together is a secret weapon behind a powerful network strategy. It works better than the entire collection of tools…Your connections matter. But so does how you know them, why you know them, where you met them, and who else they know. All these elements are explained by the network around you — all your friends of friends.”

As I worked my way through the Introduction, I envisioned intersecting circles. Each circle is a resource — an individual such as a mentor or a group of members to which one belongs — that intersects with other circles that, in turn…you get the idea.

An African proverb suggest that “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” The higher the quality of people and the more the number of networks of them, the greater your personal growth and professional development will be. That, in brief, is the geometry of multi-dimensional interaction.

Burkus believes suggests there is much of value to be learned from Adam Rifkin, described by Fortune magazine in 2011 as “the world’s best networker.” He is credited with having the most substantial understanding of how the most effective networks work. According to Burkus, “Rifkin’s own extensive network, and the career success it has brought him, is more than an amazing story. It’s a stern rejection of many misconceptions about what networking is and how it’s supposed to work. One reason these misconceptions Are widespread is that the majority of books, workshops, courses, speeches, and more on the subject are based on old and misguided advice,” advice that is still widely shared as “wisdom.” It is anything but. (See Page 4)

These are among the objectives that Burkus achieves, each having the same prefix: How to….

o Find strength in weak ties
o Seed the entire network
o Become a broker and fill connection gaps
o Seek out silos and liberate their inhabitants
o Build cross-network collaboration teams
o Become (over time) a “Super Connector”
o Leverage preferential attachment
o Create the illusion of consensus, preferably majority
o Resist homophily…embrace and enrich diversity

Note: Homophily is the tendency of individuals to associate and bond with similar others, as in the proverb “birds of a feather flock together”

o Skip mixers – share common interests with another group instead
o Build stronger relationships through multiplexity

With regard to the term “multiplexity,” it reminds me of a passage in Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself”:

“Do I contradict myself?
Very well, then, I contradict myself;
I am large, I contain multitudes.”

Recall the earlier reference to intersecting circles. In a multiplex relationship, there are interactions with another person at different levels, in different areas. As a parent of four and a grandfather of twelve, I have multiple relationships with each as an elder, friend, adviser, cheerleader, ATM, referee, mentor, confidante, benefactor, and advocate. We are large, we “contain multitudes”…just like everyone else. Burkus observes, “humans are multi-faceted, and so we ought to be multi-fascinated with them.”

He devotes a separate chapter to each objective, providing meanwhile an abundance of invaluable and practical information, insights, and counsel.

Obviously, no brief commentary such as mine can possibly do full justice to the scope and depth of the material provided in this book but I hope I have at least indicated why I hold David Burkus and his work in such high regard. Be sure to check out the wealth of free resources that are available at his website (http://www.david, including a workbook of the exercises outlined at the end of each chapter. “I will continue to keep these resources updated on my website with the most valuable and relevant information.”

Finally, I presume to add a point of my own: By all means develop lots of networks comprised of a friend of a friend ad infinitum. Remember, meanwhile, that you must also BE a friend of a friend ad infinitum

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