Thursday, April 29, 2004

It's All About the Connections

Whether you're talking computer networks or people networks, it's all about the connections.

Metcalfe's Law is just as true for people as it is for computer networks and it's also just as true for doing business within an organization as it is for job searching.

One person I know was starting to wonder why job-searching wasn't panning out until he started touching base with old co-workers. In another case, a manager used building social capital as a way of getting two departments to work better together. Building a network of resources and people who are interested in helping you out and willing to give you the benefit of the doubt when things go sideways is a good way to start off on the right foot in a new environment too.

So how does a geek go about growing and maintaining a network when being social isn't necessarily a high priority?

Here are some of the thoughts other readers and some of my clients and previous coworkers have come up with...

    Keep a list of people you enjoy being around or might like to get to know better. Make special note of those who have good social networks of their own and those who work in other departments and similar departments in other companies and are respected for their work.

    Keep a running appointment on your calendar to invite one or more of the people on your list to lunch every 1-3 weeks. It's good networking and you could probably use the break.

    Make arrangements to meet up with people on your list after work for drinks or for some other social time periodically.

    Send a quick email or IM periodically to the people in your address book - if it's a large list, you probably want to set up some kind of a rotational schedule.

    Schedule periodic potluck or brownbag lunches with people from your department and the other departments you work with - it can be purely social or can be work-related, such as a peer-learning network.

You'll notice that food is a common theme - Food seems to be one of the geek universals and it helps make everyone feel more interested in joining in and more at ease when they do. Scheduling is another repeat item in the list of suggestions. It's a good way of keeping a promise to yourself (for those who think it "just happens" or those who find it an uncomfortable chore) to get out there and do it... and it's also a nod to the fact that the human aspect of networking requires the same kind of maintenance and attention that computer networks do.

If you have other suggestions or experiences you'd like to share, send them to me at and let's grow our knowledge network.

Are you plugged into some sort of network or are you trying to make it happen all by yourself?

Monday, April 26, 2004

Baseball and Business

Poor Alex decided he really was after the ring more than the dollars after all. I wonder if his timing is off? He jumped ship for the Yankees only to find the Rangers picking up the pace (they're solidly above .500 now; we won't mention that it was at the expense of the Mariners) while the Yanks are looking for a beer in which to drown their sorrows. The good thing about the sport - both for Alex and the Mariners (okay, the Yankees too) - is that in baseball, anything can happen. I'm sure they'll all turn things around... maybe even the Mariners. You've still got a ballgame, even when you're down to your very last out. How can you NOT like baseball?

Well, certainly I've known a few in my day who didn't. What I found was that most of them weren't engaged enough. I suppose that's true of just about any sport. What is surprising is how much of the human element is involved in the process of getting involved in a sport.

Go ahead, try this little game... you've got tickets to your favorite sport and your drinking buddy backs out at the last minute. You've got to find a replacement so you grab someone else, someone you don't hate, a date, maybe your brother... and it turns out this person doesn't know a thing about baseball (if you don't know a thing about baseball, think of another sport or try this on yourself; it's just a game for crying out loud). So now you're faced with the likelihood of having to leave before the seventh inning stretch because they drove and they're bored. Here's what you do - point out something unusual or interesting (to your seat partner, right? That's the person you want to be more involved in the game) about a player - they share a birthday, a hometown, he and his wife do charity work for kids with serious illnesses (works best on the women), you get the idea.

Now that your seatmate is focused on a particular player, mention whenever that person does anything noteworthy like getting a hit or making a play. You can also explain other little things this player might be doing (- See there, it looks like he's talking to the second baseman about strategy but really, they've already got that part all figured out and they're just talking about some hot babe in the stands over there. - Really?) or explain what they need to be thinking about next. What you're doing here is personalizing the game and that makes it more engaging. Go ahead and try it; see if it doesn't change someone's outlook on the sport.

This same principle is why people like to vote folks into elected office that they've met, even if there may be big differences in how they approach matters. We tend to trust those we know more than those we don't.

It's also the same principle that makes us more inclined to give somebody we know the benefit of the doubt when things don't go well as opposed to assuming they're an idiot or they're intentionally trying to make our lives miserable.

This last one is particularly helpful in the business world so think about getting to know your co-workers, especially those who work in other departments that historically don't get along so well with your own. Find out what they do when they're not working; look for interests you might share in common. You might be surprised at the kind of social capital that builds for you both and how much easier it is to get work done.

Send your baseball predictions and any tips you have on building social capital to me at I prefer good news about the Mariners though I appreciate the truth and helping others succeed even more.

How would building social capital at work help you?

Thursday, April 22, 2004

Lawyerpalooza Tickets On Sale

Tickets to Lawyerpalooza 2 in Seattle are now on sale.

There, I promised I would let you know when that happened.

Now I'm going to go to a baseball game because while I believe in being responsible, life's too short to not have some fun once in a while and it's a nice day out.

Find something to enjoy in each day.

Saturday, April 17, 2004

Somebody Oughta Do Something!

"Somebody oughta do something about that!"

How many times have you heard something like this? Maybe you've even said it yourself. We keep thinking someone else has more time, is more qualified or has more drive or commitment than we have to get something done so we walk right on past, never realizing that maybe we could be the ones to make some kind of a difference in the world. Maybe all it takes is deciding to get involved.

If that seems too hard or you simply don't know where to begin, start thinking in terms of what really floats your boat. What are you interested in - what really lights you up? When you get engaged in causes you believe in and do it in a way that's fun, it makes for much easier going.

I find these days that I'm starting to have a lot to live up to in this regard. People all around me are starting to do the kinds of things some folks only dream about doing... and somehow they make it seem easy.

Just one timely example is a bunch of lawyers who decided that since they all had played (or wished they had played) in bands in their younger years and it would be fun to form a band of their own just to have a reason to get together and jam.

When word got out that they played some fun rockin' dance music, they started picking up gigs, first for minor social events for their firm and then for various fundraisers. Somehow that all evolved into the notion of showcasing the talent and fun side of the legal community while raising money for a good cause... and thus, Lawyerpalooza (TM) was born.

Keep in mind, the guys who got this thing off the ground are attorneys who have plenty of work to do on their day jobs - jobs that quite regularly take up a lot of evening and weekend hours too. Most of them also have families. Once they stuck a stake in the ground, though and said, "Hey, let's do it!" they ended up generating a lot of excitement amongst themselves and their co-workers. Ultimately, that led to getting other volunteers involved, other law-firm-related bands, and plenty of publicity in both the Seattle Times and in the Seattle P-I along with various publications in the legal community locally and elsewhere. They even had an interview on a local rock radio station, KZOK, since one of their morning DJ's (Spike) was on slate to help judge the event.

That's what's called creating buzz.

Even better, they raised more than $20,000 (net!) for local school music programs during that first event and have generated interest for lawyers in other communities to follow in their footsteps. What makes this example of finding fun ways to get involved so timely is they're about ready to do it again.

This second Lawyerpalooza (TM) event is scheduled for May 10, 2004 at the Fairmont Olympic in Seattle so pass the word. I'll let you know when tickets go on sale, which should be happening very soon.

Friday, April 16, 2004

Time Travel Oddities

I've gone back in time.

At first I didn't notice. I was just randomly doing Google searches because it's something I do for fun once in a while. We won't talk about what members of my family think about that.

Anyway, I tried again to locate my pal, Rod Simons, having heard that he is, in fact, working with KSTP in Minnesota. Must be he's there part-time still because he doesn't show up in their list of Sports Reporters. What was strange, though (probably because I'm still figuring my way around this whole blogging thing, 'kay?) is that running a search on his name again resulted in finding my post. Actually, that wasn't the strange part; I sort of expected that. The strange part was it was my post as part of an RSS feed on someone else's blog. I've been quoted.

That's when I noticed the date of the other blog is 1999. The interesting technology that retroactively determined my recent posting was somehow related to something that someone else posted more than five years ago is Waypath, where apparently my blog ID is 262899. It takes a while to find that out. Must be that time travel still has some bugs to be worked out.

The interesting thing (bordering on cool where cool = interesting + useful... maybe it's there already and I just haven't figured out the "useful" part yet; I can be a bit slow sometimes) is that Waypath has various tools available for use, including one for inserting abstracts from related posts into your blog (apparently that's what Fierce Poet used) and a Buzz-o-meter that graphs the recent "buzz" on the topic(s) of your choice. Could make for a fun game anyway.

Makes me sort of wonder if we were to create some buzz out there, what it is we'd want to be...

Do you have thoughts or cool web tools to share? Send them to me at and we'll see where we go from there.

Fifty years from now, let's say there's a whole lotta buzz out there about you; what would you want it to say?

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Is Life a Zero-Sum Game?

What if life is not a zero sum game? What if someone else doesn't have to lose so I can win?

Pondering on these questions and how we would choose to act if they could be true can lead us some really great places. Here's another one for you - how can I change the rules to make it a game I want to play?

In fact, changing the rules is exactly what Ghandi did when facing down the British.

It's easy to get suckered into believing the rules of the game are as presented; and yet what if there are other options, how would we choose to play then?

Send your thoughts to me at - I'm interested in hearing what rules you think are "given" , non-negotiable.

What old assumptions can you ditch that would make your life better?