I’ve been thinking about the way that human beings connect with each other, particularly how to turn simple-addition connecting into multiplication. I haven’t done a scientific study, and my observations may be purely anecdotal. Nevertheless I think that there may be some warrant to the truth of these observations.
First level connections are the simple daily interactions we have which arise as a result of our usual daily activities. The checker at the local grocery store is a first level connection. I call these connections, “bump-into’s” because they are generally not intentional beyond the need to go buy some milk or new shoes or gas or to register for a course.
I am not dismissing the importance of first level connections. Opportunities for service or help or business still exist, but only at the smallest level. These are the “occasional” interactions that we have every day. We may or may not repeat the interaction in the next week or month, depending on whether we need to bump-into these people again.
If you think of first level connections as a math calculation, these are simple addition. One person contacts one person, and so forth. There is no particular strategy or intentionality in this kind of connection.
Second level connections are different because of their intentionality. At this level, connections are formed for some desired outcome. A sports jock joins a local baseball league in order to be with friends and answer a desire to play his/her favorite sport.
A business person joins the local Chamber of Commerce in order to make business connections and to get the benefits of a Chamber membership. A family joins a church in order to get a particular kind of interaction for their children, to hear weekly instruction, or to make friends.
Second level connections are more like multiplication. In them a single action or conversation can be witnessed by a larger audience. After spending a year as president of a local Chamber, I discovered that more people knew me than I knew. It was because of the multiplication factor. And the larger the group the greater the impact.
Second level connections increase the ratios of one’s life. If I have one connection, that one connection may or may not connect me to another. But if I have 10 connections the odds increase of connecting beyond the 10 initial relationships.
Dunbar’s number estimates that we humans each know 150 other people. In a group of 10 people there is an invisible audience of 1500 people. In a group of 50 people this increases to 7500 people.
The implications of connecting are huge. A local, new business that wants to succeed must think in larger terms than simply bump-into’s and the occasional drop in’s to its shop. A politician that wants to win an election must think in larger terms than her/his immediate circle of friends and associates. A church that wants to impact its community must think in larger terms than its own neighborhood or demographic or circle of acquiescences.
In the next post I will explore third and fourth level connections and the incredible power of them.