“Hi Ivan – How are you? With BNI at 250,000 members in 70+ countries according to Dunbar we are all 1 degree of social connection from 38 million people, and 2 degrees from 5.6 Billion people (or about 3/4 of the worlds population). Dunbar says 150 people each so 250,000 x 150 x 150 = 5.6 billion people. Is this correct?”
I received this question in my inbox and it is a very reasonable “Ask Ivan” question. From a purely mathematical perspective it sounds true. However, the short answer is, “sorry, no.”
The idea that 5.6 billion people are ALL connected by six people is a myth.
Here’s why. The Dunbar Number is a sociological equation not a pure mathematical equation. For example, if you use pure math you must assume that there is no overlap between the 150 people you know and the 150 people I know. However, we both have many of the same 150 people in our own personal sphere (hence the sociological equation vs. a pure mathematical equation). In addition, don’t forget that Stanley Milgram’s “Six Degrees” is actually a fallacy. Check out this short video as to why:
Sorry. I don’t mean to be a “kill-joy.” It was a good question. Maybe the best question I’ve had in a long time. I like the way you think. I highly recommend for everyone to please continue to send me your questions and I will attempt to answer as many as possible.
What do Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and “six degrees of separation” all have in common? They are all urban legends! Time to put the kids to bed. I don’t want to stir up any trouble with Christmas around the corner. What I do want to take issue with is the six-degrees thing.
You’ve heard that there are “six degrees of separation” between you and anybody else on earth that you would like to meet. Right? Amazing, isn’t it? Unfortunately, it’s just not true! Well, I hate to burst your bubble, but the idea that we are all connected through six degrees of separation is rooted in myth–not in fact.
The legend originally stems from several “small world experiments” conducted in the late ’60s by social psychologist Stanley Milgram, who asked participants in Nebraska to send a parcel across the United States to a stranger in Boston via people they knew. These experiments involved sending letters from a group of people to a specific person in another part of the country. The people were told to get the material to someone who might know someone who would know the individual to whom the material was to be delivered. This process formed a chain of connections linking the people together. It was, in fact, found that the letters that arrived in the right person’s hands took, on average, between five and six connections. Milgram found that there tended to be about six degrees of separation between the senders in Nebraska and the recipient in Boston. This part is true; however, if you look closer, you will discover the problems that exist within the blanket statement that “we are all connected by six degrees.”
First off, though the average number of links for people who got the material through to the final contact was five or six connections, the majority of the connections that were made ranged from two to 10 (the average was five to six). This means that roughly half took more than six and roughly half less than six. Well, you say, that’s the average and I would agree that there’s nothing wrong with addressing this concept by the average, but there’s one small problem. The overwhelming majority of people in all of Milgram’s studies never got the material to the intended recipient at all! In Milgram’s most successful study, “217 chains were started and 64 were completed–a success rate of only 29 percent.”
That’s right–a success rate of less than one-third of the participants! So what this means is that 29 percent of the people in Milgram’s most successful study were separated on average by six degrees from the final contact person. However, that means that 71 percent were not connected at all!
But wait, I’m afraid it gets worse. This was Milgram’s most successful study. In another of his studies, only 5 percent of the participants completed the chain. Therefore, 95 percent of the people in the study never made the link to the person they were supposed to connect to at all–ever! Don’t shoot the messenger, but I am afraid to tell you that we are not “all” connected with everyone in the world by six degrees of separation. We’re just not . . . not all of us.
So why would I, someone who has devoted most of his professional career to business networking, be telling everyone about the Achilles heel of this iconic concept upon which a lot of networking pros hang their hat? Well, there are two reasons. First of all, I believe this myth creates complacency. The thought that everyone is absolutely connected to everyone else on the planet by six degrees gives some people a false sense of expectation and thus lulls them into a sense that the connection is bound to happen sooner or later, no matter what they do. Second, and most important, the studies’ findings indicate clearly that some people are better connected than others. I believe that’s important because it means that this is a skill that can be acquired. With reading, training, and coaching, people can develop their networking skills, increase their connections and become connected.
29 percent of people who are, in fact, separated from the rest of the world by only six degrees.
Milgram’s work was revolutionary. It opened up a whole new world of discussion and understanding. It has, however, been romanticized. The mythical version of his findings does no good for anyone. It gives people a false sense of security or an erroneous worldview of the networking process. I believe we do live in a “small world” that is becoming smaller and smaller; and I also believe it is possible to be connected to anyone in the world by only six degrees. I just don’t believe that “we are all” connected by six degrees, and Milgram’s own findings support that.
The good news in all of this is that it is possible to be part of the 29 percent through education, practice, and training. We can be connected to anyone through the power, and potential of networking. In fact, by understanding that, we can set ourselves aside from our competition by knowing that being able to make successful connections is not an entitlement. Instead, it is a skill that only some actually develop. As for the 71 percent of people who are not connected and yet still believe in the six degrees of separation concept–keep the faith.
It’s fascinating how information can get distorted in the minds of the public and turn into urban myths. Just think about the myths: Santa Claus, Tooth Fairy or the Easter Bunny. What does this teach us about business networking? The answer is this: To become a successful networker, it’s critical to be a part of the minority of people who truly are well-connected. One final thought for your kids, “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus”
People all around the world believe in these myths.
However, being connected by six degrees of people is an urban legend. Please watch this video to learn the problems that exist with the belief that we are ALL connected by six people. It is true that the average number of those that made connections was 6 people. However, the overwhelming majority of people in Milgam’s study never reached the intended person. We are not all connected by six people around the world
This myth creates a complatency. Some people are better connected than others. That is imporant because that means that this is an acquired skill. These skills can improve with reading and coaching. It is possible to be connected to anyone with the power of networking.
The more people you meet at an event, the more successful your networking efforts are–and that’s simply not the case. Instead, the quality of the connections you form is much more significant than the quantity of connections you make.
A few years ago, I had a long conversation with a good friend who was considered a networking expert in Europe. He did a lot of work with online networking or social networking. During this conversation, we got into a fundamental disagreement on the subject. He believed that networking was first and foremost a numbers game. He said that “the more people you were connected to the stronger your network.” At first, I went along with this comment agreeing that the number of people in your network was in fact, very important. I then said, “the only thing more important than the quantity of people was the quality of people in your network.” Suddenly, our paths diverged. He said the “quality of people in your network are really not that important, instead it is all a numbers game.”
To this day, I steadfastly disagree. Networking is not a numbers game. It’s more like a people puzzle. It’s about building relationships with the close people in your network. That means that it’s about finding ways to interconnect the relationships you have to build a powerful personal network. In order to do that – you actually have to have a fair number of quality relationships in that sea of contacts.
If your network is a mile wide and an inch deep, it will never be successful.
Instead, your network needs to be both wide and – in places, deep. That is, you need to have a wide set of contacts but some of those need to be connections that go deep. Therefore, the quality of your network is just as important, if not more important than the quantity of your network. This doesn’t mean that quantity isn’t important. It is important. The thing is that a small network of quality people limits your success. However, a large network with multiple quality relationships makes for a much more powerful, personal network.
It is a little like your left hand and your right hand. Both are really important. But one is generally stronger, more powerful, and generally used more than the other. You can’t accomplish what you want as easily without both. However, one is the stronger hand. This is similar to the quantity vs. quality argument in networking.
I believe that it is NOT, what you know, or who you know – it’s how well you know each other that counts.
Strong relationships take simple “contacts” and turn them into powerful “connections.” It doesn’t really matter if I have an amazing database of people with many phone numbers. What really matters is if I can pick up the phone and ask some of them for a favor and they take my call then are willing to do that favor.
By the way, since that argument a few years ago, my friend is no longer in the networking business. Quantity is good but quality truly is King.
Tiffanie Kellog, trainer for Asentiv Florida, is joined by Shawn Yesner, owner of Yesner Law and podcaster – Crushing Debt, as they explore a method that can be used to introduce others to prospects and/or referral sources.
Learn about the “Reservation for 2, Table for 4” in this video.
Are you taking advantage of the holiday season when it comes to marketing your business? You should be! Festive posts really attract audiences who are feeling sentimental or those who are looking for some services specifically around the holidays.
Years ago, I was relaxing on Necker Island in the Caribbean where I was meeting with about 20 business leaders including Sir Richard Branson the founder of Virgin Atlantic Airways and owner of the Island.
My journey to this island is a dramatic example of “The Butterfly Effect of Networking”, a theory that a small action in one place may have a ripple effect that creates a dramatic action in another place. It is like a pebble in a pond creating ripples on the surface. For networking, it is about how a seemingly minor connection or conversation with one person may, after many ripples across the network over time, ends in a dramatic connection later in the process. Let me share my story…
People often ask me, “how can I stay in touch with people or get back in touch with people that I haven’t seen or spoken with recently?”
Start by making a commitment to improving this area. There’s a great Chinese proverb that I really like – “When’s the best time to plant an Oak tree? The answer is – 20 years ago. When’s the second best time – now!”
So, here are 4 strategies that will help you improve in this area. If you can’t do them all – do what works for you.
Sort through your list of people. You can’t stay in touch with everyone. Who do you want to make sure to stay connected with and why? It could be personal, it could be professional, but create a list that you want to focus on.
Use the system they use! It doesn’t have to be Facebook or LinkedIn – use Pinterest or other programs, Snapchat, What’s App – whatever they use. Each of my children uses different systems. If I want to connect with them – I need to go where they are. For my oldest daughter, it’s texting or a phone call. For my second daughter, it’s What’s App or texting. For my son, it’s an online game called Steam. I have some business associates who only reach out to me on Facebook or LinkedIn. Others are strictly email or a phone call. The key here – is to go where the people you want to talk to, hangout.
Use social media platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ or Twitter to your advantage by sharing news and reading updates without having to reach out to people on an individual basis. Social media is fantastic. Instead of starting your next call with, “What’s new?” you can jump to, “You cut off your hair!” “You have a new job!”
From time to time, use snail mail! Yes, OMG, send a handwritten letter or a card. It’s so “old school” and it’s almost guaranteed that someone will read it.
The notion of love is too touchy-feely for many of us, especially when it comes to business.
But my friend and fellow Transformational Leadership Council Member, Steve Farber, doesn’t think so. Steve is one of the most renowned leadership speakers in the industry. When we were in Napa Valley together last week, he talked to me about making love a part of your every day mantra as a business owner.
“If the customer loves you, you can blow up their building and they’ll say ‘Eh–accidents happen,'” Steve said (OK, so that might be a bit extreme. But you get what he’s trying to say.)
Steve goes on to say that it’s more than just the forgiveness factor that makes it worth having a loving relationship with your customers.
“Love is what leads to customer loyalty,” he said. “it’s what leads to word-of-mouth and growing your organization.”
I think this advice is spot on. If your customer relationships are held in as high regard as the service you provide, you can only benefit. Customers want to love you-they want to trust and believe in you, which are foundational building blocks of love. Focus on building those blocks with the goal of creating loving, loyal customer relationships, and you’ll create a strong reputation that will hold up in the business community.
In the first part of this two-part blog, I talked about how to know if you are approachable when it comes to mingling at networking events–because you may not know that you are the one getting in your own way when it comes to meeting new people and kindling business relationships.
If you read the first blog (found here: https://ivanmisner.com/successful-networking-kind/ ) and discovered that the behaviors listed weren’t those you exhibited when networking, you might begin to wonder if you are, in fact, alienating.
Here are some examples of alienating behaviors:
1. A Negative Attitude: Rambling about your rough personal or professional life is off-putting for your future referral partner. Leave your problems at the door of any networking event you attend. If you’re down, don’t bring others down with you, because they might avoid you at future events and others might follow their lead.
2. Closed-Off Body Language: If you have a scowl on your face and your arms crossed over your chest, others will most likely move on to someone more welcoming. Your stance means a lot in your approachability and allows others to walk past you or join in the conversation easily.
3. Incongruence: Inconsistency in what you say and what you do makes a huge difference in people’s perception of whether or not you are approachable or alienating. If you’re reiterating how much you value kindness in others, but speak poorly to a server or hostess at the event, your potential referral partner is going to dismiss you as insincere.
But how can you really tell if you are approachable or alienating? Bring a trusted friend or referral partner with you to your next networking event and observe each other’s body language, tone of voice and words. Afterwards, exchange constructive feedback with the intent of helping each other become better referral partners.
This is the fifth and final video in the “Ivanism” Garage to Global series, hosted by Entrepreneur.com. In this series, I expand on common phrases I’ve used throughout my 31 years of referral-based networking.
When you’re at a networking event, do you eagerly bounce around the room, chatting with various people and passing out business cards? Do you tend to seek deep connections by only talking to a few people for longer periods? Everyone has their own way of making connections and networking, and it helps to understand just where you fall in the lineup.
Knowing your networking behavioral style will help you capitalize on your skills–and maybe even identify some flaws to improve upon. Take a look at the video below to find out YOUR style and maybe the next time you’re at an event, you’ll be able to better position yourself for greater success.
Those tokens are what I remember from those who attended the BNI Conferences of Italy and England.
For those of you who don’t know, my wife Beth and I were in Europe the past three weeks traveling to Italy and England for their BNI National Conferences. This was our first trip to Italy, and I hadn’t visited England in several years, so this was a big deal for all those involved.
One of the reasons I enjoy traveling to the international conferences, is because I love meeting the people who drive BNI: our Members. Business owners who are working hard to make it in the world, who are dedicated to our core values, who are passionate about learning ways to make their business better. Seeing their energy and their commitment is what drives me to keep producing content and find new ways to give real people real advice on networking and small business performance.
In Italy, what impressed me the most was the hospitality of the people. The warmth and kindness was palpable and I had no problem opening up–even with the language barrier. Like I always say, networking is the same in any language, and culture can’t stop people from interacting from one another. (In fact, I challenge you to network with someone who practices a different culture than you do– you might be surprised at just how similar you are.) Everyone wants to succeed, everyone wants to use the tools given to them in the right way–which is something I felt deeply from Italian Members. At every turn there was someone shaking my hand, thanking me for helping them push through some of the hardest times of their professional lives–for that, I am grateful.
Our Members in England were unique in their energy, to be sure. The excitement and enthusiasm was something I wish I could bottle and take whenever I need a boost! Once I took the stage on Friday at their conference’s Members Day, the Tweets began multiplying like fireworks–hundreds within a mere few hours. It wasn’t ignorance on fire, but passion, which is even better. They took every word of my speech to heart, hung on every word, which made me feel completely humbled and appreciative. I look over those tweets and think, “Wow! They liked me–they really liked me!”
Take a look through this photo album and see if you can feel what I felt during that time. It was truly something I will never forget.