Posts Tagged success

The importance of diversity to collaboration

When forming a group to tackle a project, most teams follow a simple script.  The core constituents draw up a list of the skills and knowledge they think they’ll need to be successful, and then they start calling acquaintances that have the appropriate attributes.  In many cases, though, the way that people build networks can be self-limiting.

Marshall Van Alstyne, a Professor at Boston University and an expert on information economics, made an observation on this phenomenon while describing to Computer World some of his important research:

…there’s evidence that the diversity of social networks really matters, not just the number of people. People have a tendency to build social networks by talking to people like themselves. That’s fine, but it doesn’t increase information diversity. You need to talk to people who aren’t like you. That’s not always easy, but it will increase the diversity of the information you have access to.

So, while building your social networks you should make a special effort to look for people who are different from you and actively seek to diversify the pool of people with whom you regularly communicate.  By doing this you will increase two important components of a successful networker: betweenness and reach.  Marshall used this diagram to illustrate:

Betweenness And Reach
Constrained vs. Unconstrained Constrained vs. Unconstrained

Illustration courtesy of Marshall Van Alstyne.

But having different information is only part of the equation.  A diverse group of individuals will not only possess more diverse data, they will also have different perspectives on the challenge itself, as well as differing cognitive styles that guide the the way they understand and solve abstract problems.  This diversity, leveraged correctly, can increase the collaborative quotient of the group.

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Entertainment, part of this nutritious story

Seth Godin talks about the difference between a show and a story in his blog today and mentions that successful marketing is all about telling a story.

Marketing boils down to communicating value.  Successful marketing offers a clear way for your customers to engage in a mutually beneficial relationship with you.  Everything you do in communicating your brand should focus on reinforcing your unique value proposition in an engaging way – and in a way that perpetuates your differentiation.  Showing your customer why your unique offering is right for them is an invitation for them to initiate or renew their relationship with you.

Think about your current relationships.  What qualities do you value in the most stable relationships in your life?  Chances are in addition to shared values, honesty and integrity you also value a bit of humor and whimsy.  While there is a place in our lives for the monotone narrative of books on tape, sometimes a bit of showbiz glitz can surprise, amuse and delight us too.

Tony the Tiger used to entertain the heck out of us as children.  But his antics never distracted from the heart of the story, which was that his special cereal was an important part of our nutritious breakfast.

Storytelling is as old as mankind.  Who knows, the cave paintings in Chauvet might be the longest running advertising campaign in history.  But, as with most things, diversity and innovation are key to avoiding stagnation.

Have a story, but don’t be afraid to occasionally entertain us.

By the way, what was your favorite Super Bowl ad?  Why?

Roger Farnsworth

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