‘But she’s my friend!’ – the power of making connections

connections 2A while ago I can remember @PaulJthinks encouraging people to follow me on Twitter as I was a hundred or so followers short of 3000. I now have nearing 8000 and I have been reflecting what that really means to me and how I use my valuable network.

There are a number of people who theorise about networks and connections. Metcalfe’s law is one of these, originating with a theory around Ethernet connections and now sometimes used to describe how number of possible cross-connections in a network grow as the square of the people in the network increases. In other words the community value of a network grows as the square of the number of its users increase.

It all sounds a bit technical to me, and a bit theoretical, but I’ve been reflecting on what my network means to me and how my numbers of followers seems to have grown without any deliberate act on my part to make it happen.

I have always been a connector in groups. In my social life I seem to create social groups and then, as they become impossible to manage socially as separate groups (there are just not enough days in a year), I join groups together. It’s not something I set out to do but I recognise that’s what happens; I am often the unique connection in our social groups – they lived next door, or I worked with them, or their children went to the same child-minder or I used to give them a lift to work.

I don’t set out to behave this way. I don’t set out to collect connections or people or friends it just seems to happen – I love people and I am very extrovert, not in the bouncing loud sort of way, at least all the time, but in the wanting to hear about people and share stories and experiences way. The truth is I am much more reserved than people think but this fascination with people makes me seem very extrovert I suspect (a previous blog covers exactly this here).

people connectingSo why am I thinking about networks and connections now? As I have strengthened my professional network with my social media activity I find I am increasingly focussed on how I can connect people together, that the relationship with me is not the most helpful one but that I can act as a sort of lightening rod to others; connecting wonderful people together. It hasn’t always felt this way but as the strength and depth of my social media network has increased I feel more able to do this – my investment in my relationships seems to have made them deeper and stronger. Again not deliberate act but on reflection that’s is probably what has happened.

When I first noticed this behaviour I did have a moment of anxiety. It’s a bit like when you are at school and your best friend wanders off with another friend that you introduced them to and my instinctive response might have been – ‘but she’s MY friend’.

Interestingly that isn’t what happens now and I’m fascinated by how connecting others to each other seems to step up the power in my network!  I have no idea how I got to 250 followers let alone near 8000 – it just seemed to happen but I do know I definitely feel connected to more great people.

lighteningIn the NHS today it feels more fragmented than ever before. Organisations seem less likely to share than in the past and networks that existed across Strategic Health Authorities for example feel like they have fallen away. I think that if we all behaved as active ‘connectors’ it might just power us up a little bit and we might even find that we become turbo charged if we connect beyond our usual networks; I personally love the fact I have connections in social care, housing, voluntary sector, who work for themselves, who work in the NHS – the list goes on. I don’t know exactly how it happened but I am glad it did and there is nothing more satisfying that making a successful introduction then watching some magic happen! I love my network and seeing it help me to help others through acting as a connector is doubly satisfying – even if there is a little demon on my shoulder saying ‘don’t forget to keep loving me too will you?’

Could you be a better connector? I’m going to keep trying.