Sunday, June 01, 2008

How user-friendly are you?

Networking today is dramatically different than it was 10 years ago, yet most people have not realized this.

It's no longer just about meeting people or even building "relationships." What does "relationship" mean anyway?

It's more about maximizing your utility to the members of your network.

In other words, make yourself "user-friendly." Make it EASY and CONVENIENT for people in your network to USE you, your knowledge, your experience, your judgment, etc.

As an aside, some people (especially headhunters and HR professionals) are actually doing the opposite: they spam their entire network with job ads that have absolutely no relevance to any member of their network. These folks are being blacklisted and are getting a bad reputation among the 21 million users of Linkedin, so they should revise their strategy of broadcasting unsolicited job positions.

Indeed, they are being of zero utility to their connections, YET they want to USE their connections. They run the risk of being perceived as unprofessional "peddlers" of untargeted job vacancies. As a headhunter or HR professional, once you lose your reputation, you lose everything.

But back to being "user-friendly." A good way is to send your connections a list of questions that you are qualified to answer. They can then just "copy and paste" the questions whose answers they want, and email them to you.

For instance, I would email the following questions to my connections:
  1. What is KM and why should I, as a professional, care?
  2. How can I repackage my human capital into solutions, products or services so I can quit the rat race and launch my own business?
  3. What is the one secret about entrepreneurship that is not taught in any entrepreneurship program, without which the odds of success in business are dramatically reduced?
  4. What is the mysterious process you went through, to create valuable and popular workshops at
Then, all my connections have to do is email me with the question number (e.g. 2, 4) in the subject heading of an email. I would then provide them with the answers.

The answers will be different for each connection, because as much as possible, I will customize the answer to the specific situation of the person asking the question.

So just look at your connections on Linkedin. If nobody has asked you any question, then you might not be useful to your connections.

It's not that you CANNOT be useful to your connections. It's just that you are not "user-friendly": that is, your connections do not know HOW to use you or your knowledge or your experience.

"User-friendly optimality" (UFO) must be consciously designed. In other words, you have to create specific systems, like my pre-written, numbered questions above, that enables your connections to use you.

Because the networking game is very simple: if they can't rely on you, you cannot rely on them.

You could have 500 connections, but that's just a fancy number without any practical value behind it if you are not being useful to your connections.

I will write more on UFO later.