Start ups, entrepreneurs and business in general are inundated theories and opinions on the best way to network. Working to create an online social media network of people of companies who may enhance your reach. Networking to me seems very flat. In my mind’e eye this word evokes a visually flat web. You are in the center and everything radiates outward, or in some tangent. One could also use the analogy of concentric circles. Or intersecting circles. Google proposed this type of thinking. Who is in you friends and family circle and who is in your acquaintance circle? Some people intersect from one circle to another forming another shape. But we do not live in a 2 dimensional world. We are based in reality, which changes constantly.
Last year I came across the book, “Floating City: A Rogue Sociologist Lost and Found in New York’s Underground Economy” by Sudhir Venkatesh. Sudhir tells us in detail that in order to make money in the underground economy in Manhattan one has to “float” The book is part memoir and part observation of the underbelly of Manhattan’s sketchy and fringe underground economy. A noted floating connection is between a drug dealer in Harlem who strikes up a business friendship with Sudhir’s friend from college who started her own escort service. While having nothing in common, (The escort entrepreneur is of a world of money and privilege and the drug dealer from the poverty of Harlem who is making a living off of selling drugs) these two individuals were able to offer assistance in their endeavor. While reading this I found that I could utilize some aspects of this book. Not the criminal aspect but, on how I could connect with people who are in my many environmental spheres of my life.
There was an element in the book that Venkatesh may have over looked, the power of like. An example in the book deal with a bodega which rents out a room to prostitutes to rest during their working hours. It is a business arrangement that both parties benefit, yet there is a camaraderie that grows. It grows enough, that when a bad circumstance happens upon the bodega created a hole in the small community. Venkatesh benefits from the like phenomenon. Yes, he is a sociologist who studies the people in the community but a likability and trust must be evident for him to have a purpose being there.
During my college years, I worked in Boscov’s department store in Binghamton, NY. While I was assigned to the domestics and notions department, the store had coworkers who were called floaters. They were the people who have skills that could fill in a department that was down a person or to shore up a busy department. Many excelled in this area because of their likability personality, knowledge they started to accrue and to blend in, if it was only for a short time. For me personally knowing and accessing bits and bobs of information is valuable.
For me, I can pick out quality bed linens, yarn and what the best type of scissors one should use to sew with. And yet, I do not sew, nor knit but, I have enough curiosity and known information that I can carry on a conversation with a person who is quite knowledgeable. In other words, I know enough to be dangerous.
Floating works with new contacts as well. Backgrounds, life experience, socio economic status and all the other host of barriers keeps us from connecting from one another. A floater can draw upon an element in their history, life experience or any kind of interest that can form a new connection. Just because you are not of “their world” does not mean you cannot form a connection. Creating a floating point of connection with a new contact enhances both of your lives. Both in business and in life.
The current use of the current economy may give more credence to idea of floating connections as better working model in explaining connections with people. The imagery of a network seems very stagnant and hardwired. Life’s circumstances change. A change a new connection may mean breaking into the circuitry or adding a bypass. Floating on the other hand allows for flow and morphing changes to be accepted. People move on to other jobs, people are in one tribe, then move on to another. The problem is that these changes in circumstances tend to break off of the network, completely. By keeping in mind that people you do come in contact with or have known over the years does have its ebbs and flows frees up a myriad of uneasy feelings one has by not staying in contact.