As the CEO of Livestrong, potentially one of the most embattled health-related non-profit organizations in recent years after its founder and namesake became embroiled in a road cycling doping controversy, Doug Ullman had the unenviable task of restoring the mission of the organization to the heart of its message to world.
Ullman found that, instead of focusing on the network of people working on living with, supporting those living with, or finding a cure for cancer, he was up against faceless critics intent on “bastardardizing the [Livestrong] brand and the community because of their hatred for one individual.” He began the process of renewal by speaking to the heart of community that continues to be built and developed around the concept of survivorship.
Community creates shared value. Value from shared solution finding and problem-solving. It is different from a crowd. In a crowd people push and shove and elbow and they try to get ahead of the person next to them. In a community, none of us moves forward unless we all move forward together.
In his work, Ullman saw the value of a network of people with a shared experience willing to change the way the world viewed cancer.
This was a point that was raised again in the story shared by Howard Linzon. He is the CEO and Co-founder of StockTwits and Social Leverage. He shared the value of the network in how we create and derive value. His lessons included that we, “live in an era of social leverage,” and, “success is about connecting the dots.”
Teach the world how to take the dots in their head and transform them into better and wiser actions.
For Linzon, social media is a tool. It’s another weapon in your arsenal. That is all. Some are great at it. Some suck at it. But we should all surround ourselves with someone who knows social or develop that understanding and skill themselves.
It is in those connections between each other that the power of the network is unleashed. Grant Garrison, the CEO of Good Corps., shared that juxtaposing good versus evil is not the true way of the world. It is too extreme. The coping mechanism is to remain positive in the face of constant shifting inputs and circumstances.
As Garrison said,“We’re never hired by the CEO”. Good is most often hired by lower-level people in the enterprise and as a result they need to rapidly identify opportunities for addressing the self-interest of the business. This demands that, not only do they need to network, they had best do it quickly and effectively or they won’t have an opportunity to do the work on the scale they need to.
Perhaps the strongest and most personal appeal for the value of the network came from my friend, Deb Mills-Scofield. Deb shared her perspective that it is a diversity of thought that best leads to integrating new things and experiences – leading to a well-rounded person. She recognized this in her youth visiting museums with her family, but also learned this by the kinds of organizations she joined. For example, by working for Bell Labs she found she could have lunch with Nobel laureates and the creators of security for UNIX. It was only later, when she reflected on the value of networks in her life, that she realized that she had gone to work for a networking company.
As a demonstration of the power of networking in her life, Deb showed us her Twitter network pre- and post-BIF-6. The breadth and depth of her network increased remarkably.
The network is not about me, is not about you. It is to be shared for the other.
Deb also shared how she derived value from her networks for others. Like Saul Kaplan, she extolled the virtue of creating opportunities for Random Collisions of Unusual Suspects. In these moments she could find ways to share her expertise with an ever-increasing network of people, creating value with far-reaching consequences. Deb’s journey through the power of networks from her own perspective illustrated the impact of the people she touched and how sharing truly makes a network count.
For more on this topic listen to my post session interview with Deb.