Think back to when you were at school. What do you remember? The smell of the school hall (kind of musty gym kits and disinfectant) cross country in the freezing rain or drinking warm milk out of a glass bottle with a straw?
What about the people? Did you have a favourite teacher? We all loved Mr Sykes (I wrote about him before) none of us did very well at French with Ms Schmidt and we were all a bit scared of Mr Callard.
What about your classmates? That time when Daniel Savage shaved half his eyebrow off in geography class, when Stephen Perkins did a loud fart in a maths exam or when Sharon Taylor got caught smoking behind the bike sheds?
Are you still in touch with any of them?
Who you know matters
I’m still in touch with some classmates from school. Some I still see regularly, others I’ve not seen for years but we know what each other are up to because of the wonder of Facebook.
There is a saying that ‘it’s not what you know but who you know’. I do think you need to know some stuff, and I do agree that who you know is more valuable.
Research into human networks show that large and diverse networks can bring benefits to both your professional and private life. However, it’s not necessarily in your immediate network that the magic lies. It’s in the weak ties. It’s the people that you know less well, that are outside of your immediate circle that are more likely to facilitate your next promotion, your new job or even your next relationship.
And your weak ties include those classmates from school – those people that at one point in your life you had much in common and spent a great deal of time with. What are they up to now?
Often I’ll ask Facebook for help and advice, for example recommendations for places to visit or expertise on a topic (you may have even helped with jogging memories from school in this blog). I’ve asked my friends to buy my book (thank you) and back a crowdfund (thank you again) and whilst I’ve not done a detailed analysis of which friends help out, it does feel that there is a disproportionately high number of classmates that have helped (thank you). For example:
When I was writing the Innovation Leadership Report I was looking for innovators; those doing something new and I remembered my old school friend Neil Cloughley was working on a hybrid aircraft. I asked if I could interview him. No problem. We did talk about guinea pigs for a bit because that is the main thing he remembered about me, but once we’d discussed Biggles and Fergie I got to learn about his vision for his aviation company. You can check out the original article here.
When I launched my book to get my Amazon ranking up which (sadly) is important I promoted it everywhere. If you are my friend on Facebook you’ll already know this. One friend from school said, ‘I’ve not seen you in 25 years, I only know you through Facebook and you want me to buy your book?’
‘Of course I will!’
One classmate worked at a marketing agency that the organisation I was working with had been trying to get an introduction to for a long time. When I asked it was no problem to introduce me to the right senior executive and arrange a meeting that I’d never have got without a personal contact.
And when people help you out – you step forward to do the same back when asked. And that’s how networks and weak ties work.
I’ve talked about school, but you’ll have weak ties from many different parts of your life, for example college, university or a Saturday job. Who are those friends who you’ve lost touch with and what are they up to now? I encourage you to get in touch and find out. You just might be able to help them too.
If you’d like to build your networks and get better results you might also like the Lucidity Network – an online and offline learning and support network. Already we have members from a mix of sectors from around the world. I don’t think any of your classmates have joined yet though. Check out this link for more about the Lucidity Network and to join our waiting list.