The illiterate of the 21st Century are those who have an inability to truly make a deep connection with others. As convenient as technological advances in information, instant access, and entertainment have made our lives, they have also changed the way we think, behave, and communicate, resulting in a dramatic decline in our people skills. As a society we are now heavily relationship disadvantaged.
The man vs. machine pendulum has swung over to high tech and low touch. As a result, we long for a sense of community, belonging, and purpose. Loneliness prevails in a world in which people no longer know our name, what we do, or what is important to us. This trend has been magnified by the pandemic isolation requirements. Those who understand that human touch is the most important part of any experience – especially a great customer experience – will flourish. Personally and professionally, success is about creating and building human connections. It was Seth Godin who, coined the term “connection economy.” The idea is that value is generated by making connections, rather than pumping widgets out of the end of an assembly line.
The connection economy is the economy of prosperity, collaboration and infinite possibilities. It’s the vision of an economic ecosystem, a complex network of interconnected systems built on trust, value alignment and reciprocity. Also called the ‘relationship economy’, the ‘experience economy’ and even the ‘dream society’, the connection economy places human interaction at the heart of every business. Success is measured by the ability to create and connect. This means the ability to form meaningful, emotional connections and relationships will have as far reaching an impact as the industrial revolution had 200 years ago.
As society continues to evolve beyond the industrial and information economies, we are seeing personal connection, trust and authentic relationships emerge to become highly valuable commodities. This new economy is significantly different from those that came before because, inherent in this economy is the foundation of LOVE. The connection to a deeper sense of community, purpose and meaning is valued over mass production, competition and consumption.
“We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibres connect us with our fellow man; and among those fibres, as sympathetic threads, our actions run as causes, and they come back to us as effects.”
Shutting the Factory Gates
The old economic paradigm was built on physical labour and factory processes, which are finite and dehumanising. We have reached the point where we can’t really build things any faster or cheaper and where the labour required is non-scalable. As Seth Goden says, “Just because you are winning a game, it doesn’t mean it’s a good game.”
As we witness the dying throws of the aggressive winner-takes-all approach to the old way of working, the new connection economy is rising from the ashes of self-serving greed. Driven by qualities such as generosity, collaboration, cooperation, service-to-others, communication and sharing. This new way of operating provides a fresh perspective for solving today’s toughest problems in business, education, sustainability, politics and government.
The connection economy requires emotional labour. This is abundant; it scales; it’s renewable; and it’s rooted in humanity. More importantly, it is genuine – the antidote to consumer cynicism and saturation. “We have branded ourselves to death”, Godin warns. “You can’t build an important new brand, new company, new non-profit, the old way.” What matters now? Trust, respect, permission, relationships, remarkability, leadership, storytelling, reciprocity, resonance, humanity, connection, compassion and humility.
“When we know ourselves to be connected to all others, acting compassionately is simply the natural thing to do. ”
From ROI to ROR
Humanity, and our need to connect, is driving greater sharing, connecting and transparency in our personal and business lives. As the lines between home and work continue to blur, this trait is influencing economics at scale. It’s the same principle that dictated which stall in a Mesopotamian market 13,000 years ago received the most traction, and now it’s determining the fate of the Fortune 500. Modern technology has made relationships and their implications global.
Return on Relationships is a human-centric alternative to Return on Investment. While ROI is about dollars and cents; ROR is about sharing, building relationships, and the value accrued (both perceived and real) by building and sharing connections with the people you do business with. Sadly, we have forgotten how to truly relate to people. This is now sharply in focus through digital, social, and the new wave of human-centred marketing. While talking about relationships may be alien and uncomfortable to start with, we know it works. Your relationships must be at the heart of every strategy, particularly digital.
The internet and the rise of social media has produced a two-way information highway. Suddenly networks are king. People can connect with each other at an unprecedented speed and scale. This has reshaped the business landscape, forming a global economy where business relationships, previously not possible, are now probable and expectations are higher than ever.
The relationship economy is built on trust. The transparency of crowdsourced reviews and the internet has brought Milton Friedman’s theories on the viability of consumer-generated “licensing” into reality. Government regulators are running behind in the distance, waving their arms, while consumers and the market have already determined what’s worthwhile and what’s not.
“Man can no longer live for himself alone. We must realise that all life is valuable and that we are united to all life. From this knowledge comes our spiritual relationship with the universe.”
5 Ways to Get Ahead in the Connection Economy
Where does connection take place? Everywhere! Your job is to find the right tribe, connect and create a culture of being in that tribe. There are disconnected people out there in the community who are just waiting for you to show up.
1. Switch from Service-to-Self to Service-to-Others
This works for relating to others on an individual level as well as for a brand connecting to an audience. Switch from ‘what can I get?’ to ‘what can I give?’ and give stuff away, to people and to customers. Offer, constantly, to be of service. When you attach meaning to everything you do, you naturally make things that people love. When you create valuable content, people want to share it. When you connect people to each other, you build networks that change how people feel, not what they search for. Work hard to get your message believed, not just noticed. Generosity doesn’t have to be about big, grand gestures; in fact, sometimes the smallest act of kindness can have the biggest impact. Things like giving our time, opening a door for someone, giving a shoutout on social media and suggesting a referral, cost nothing but can mean so much.
2. Embrace Social
Connecting with customers, prospects, suppliers, and others through social media can deliver tremendous value. One big mistake many companies make is using social media simply as a billboard, another place to advertise. The best way to use social media is to leverage its power to connect and build relationships with your customers and target market. Don’t just reach out — actually take the time to listen to what customers are saying. Don’t just respond, connect.
3. Get in Touch with Your Whole Self
Who are you? What do you stand for? Who do people think you are? Does anyone get to see the ‘real’ you? Why not? Fake = Fail in today’s environment. Ditch the mask, be yourself and start building real, meaningful relationships. Share your hobbies, your passions, your soapboxes, your photos, your experiences. Reach out and others will connect. Gone are the days of 2D boring business people. There is value in your extra-curricular activities, value in admitting the things you don’t know or sharing the kooky hobby you thought your colleagues would find weird. Guess what – unconventional is in! The connection economy has enabled the weird edges, where people who care find others who care, and they all end up caring about something even more than they did before they met.
4. Re-Define Your Comfort Zone
The higher the risk, the higher the reward. The higher the mountain, the better the view. Leaving the comfort zone of an age-old system may be a little scary at first. You need to become ok with failing, with higher risk, with more creation than repetition and with more sharing than you might at first feel comfortable with. Blaming the system is soothing because it lets you off the hook. But, when the system is broken, we wonder why we were relying on the system in the first place. Find a way to stand out. That’s how to get ahead: standing out, not fitting in; inventing, not duplicating. The new way rewards originality, remarkability and art.
5. Love your Haters
So many leaders are put off social media and online connection because they don’t want to give an instant platform to critics. Here’s the thing: People who hate you are actually trying to talk to you. This means you have a chance to engage and potentially persuade. Let other consumers see your honesty. If something is actually wrong, admit it and start a dialogue about it.
“To strengthen your interpersonal influence, don’t win arguments. Instead, win hearts and minds.”
– Mark Goulston
It’s not about what you know; it’s about who you know. Knowing how to ask for an introduction is a very powerful networking tool. There are some people in this world who naturally and easily build large networks and deep connections with a wide range of diverse people from all over the world. Who are these people? And how do they do it?
These people are called Super-Connectors, and they have an innate ability to connect and form relationships. Super-connectors know everyone, and everyone knows them. These people build relationships very quickly and with a lot of people. A Super Connector is a hugely magnetic person who maintains contact with thousands of people in many different worlds, and knows them well enough to give them a call. There is more to it than just knowing the right person; Super Connectors also have a sincere desire to help their network. They match people with opportunities and, in doing so, they leave their connections with a positive opinion of them and their abilities.
Super-Connectors are powerful because connection is great for business. As marketing becomes noisier, standing out from the crowd is vital, and the best way to stand out is to develop a relationship with your audience. Forming clever, strategic collaborations with businesses that are complementary to yours has the power to open the doors to new opportunities, customers and profits.
“A tribe is a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea. For millions of years, human beings have been part of one tribe or another. A group needs only two things to be a tribe: a shared interest and a way to communicate.”
4 Traits of Super-Connectors
It is very difficult to become a super-connector, because it requires the unique ability to understand a person’s needs moments after meeting them. Here are the 4 top traits of a Super-Connector
1. Super-Connectors Know What we Want.
Super-Connectors are interested in figuring out exactly what it is that we want so they can immediately create a lasting relationship with us by figuring out how to help us achieve that need. It is a brilliant tactic. Super-Connectors like to stay in “in the know.” They will know what each of their connections are capable of, who is in their network, and what connections need or are looking for. This allows them to instantaneously connect people based on needs and abilities, while increasing their own value.
2. Super-Connectors Make Time for Their Connections.
You can’t be a Super-Connector without being ‘connected’ and key element in staying connected and remembered is face time. People who live the life of a Super-Connector do not eat lunch alone; they find someone to eat with. They do not wait in the airport during layovers; they call someone in that city and meet for coffee. Super-Connectors are constantly updating their network of their travel plans and whereabouts so that they remain fresh in the minds of their network. These face-to-face interactions go along way for connectors.
3. Super-Connectors Take Notes.
When most people add a new contact, they take down basic information, such as phone number, email, or the person’s job title. Super-Connectors go a step further and take notes. They may write down their first impressions of the person, how they met, where they met, and any immediate information gathered from the person. A Super-Connector would also make note of anyone that they connected the person to and why. This allows connectors to make everyone they meet for a second time to feel important and remembered.
4. Super-Connectors Keep Everyone in the Loop.
When a Super-Connector has a question about something or finds something suspicious, they are not afraid to add everyone involved on an email and ask. This is what makes Super-Connectors transparent and in control of their network. Super-Connectors do not allow people to change their opinion of someone or a situation without a public questioning. This is what makes a connector trustworthy and why they can trust people in their network. Being trustworthy and trusting is crucial for Super-Connectors.
“The community of humanity is actually a support system that secures, reinforces and empowers each person in it.”
6 Skills to Master if You Want to Become a Super-Connector
Becoming a Super-Connector is not easy, but it can open up a world of opportunities for you that you never knew existed. Do you think you have what it takes? There are some important skills that you will need to become a Super-Connector, in addition to having a love of meeting new people:
1. Start Up.
Don’t ever show up at an event thinking about what you hope to obtain for yourself. Be a giver. The law of reciprocity works! Reciprocity is the act of giving generously of your time, energy and effort. It’s trusting that when you’re kind to someone, that kindness will also be returned to you. What you give out, you get back.
2. Show Up.
99% of success comes from the simple act of showing up. Getting involved in events face-to-face, participating and asking questions are vital keys to success.
3. Follow Up.
Following up shows you are interested, makes people feel valued, sets you apart and reveals you are serious and reliable.
4. Stand Up.
You can follow every other step but, unless you’re a stand up person in life, nothing else will make a difference. Your credibility is everything. Never do anything that causes someone else to question your credibility.
5. Link Up.
Find the ways to establish a personal and memorable connection with every individual you meet.
6. Scale Up.
It is important to nurture your growing network of contacts with care. Spend dedication and time in the networking and follow up process, and continually learn ways to work smarter instead of harder as well.
The connection economy uses relationships, trust and human interaction as its currency. In the relationship economy, individual contributions are valued as essential to building that community. In the process of building a community, letting individuals know they are valued helps them feel cared for and connected, provides them with a purpose, and makes them feel part of this community. While many aspects of work and life may now be uncertain due to COVID-19, one thing is certain: the connection economy is thriving.
“Choosing your alignment and raising your vibration are your greatest gifts to the planet. Period.”
The Universal Law of Vibration
The law of vibration is a universal, energetic law in which our thoughts and emotions create a frequency, like a radio wave. We gravitate toward people who we like to be around. Like attracts like. A person with positive energy, self-confidence and a great sense of humour who makes you feel good to be with is always someone you want to be around. Resonance is a vibration of your energy, and when you’re resonating at a higher vibration, it attracts people and new opportunities to you. The opposite of resonance is dissonance, and you’ve probably experienced the feeling of people like this — those who leave you feeling drained rather than energised after running into them or talking to them on the phone.
The great news is that becoming more resonant is a skill we can all cultivate. There are lots of simple things that you can do to raise your vibration, such as practicing gratitude, listening to uplifting music, exercising, getting outdoors, dancing, going for a walk, doing yoga and practicing mindfulness. The connection economy provides us with a powerful force for change and a unique opportunity to co-create a brighter future for us all.
“The history of your happiness is the history of your feeling connected.”
Moving From Efficiency to Connectivity
In the past, the primary role of business was to increase efficiency. By motivating and monitoring employees, streamlining the organisation’s structure and negotiating firmly with customers and suppliers, executives could reduce costs across the value chain and achieve sustainable competitive advantage.
Today we no longer compete in isolated industries, but in ecosystems with porous borders. The fact that our current management systems don’t yet account for this shift need not blind us to the fact that it has occurred. The future doesn’t fit in the containers of the past. We have shifted to a whole new paradigm. Competitive advantage is no longer the sum of all efficiencies but the sum of all connections. To win in today’s connected economy, you need to deepen and widen your networks. networks.
“As we shift towards left dominance, we move internally out of relationship and into isolation, no matter how many people may be present, and we are inviting others into disconnection from themselves and others as well.”