Jeffrey Pfeffer, Stanford University Professor and author of Power: Why Some People Have It and Others Don’t, is also the author of a popular business school case study based on myGreenlight founder Keith Ferrazzi. During his Social Capitalist interview, Professor Pfeffer explained the importance of becoming central in your network and taking on what he calls a brokerage role.
Brokers, even the literal term, bring people together. I mean, if you think about it, what is a venture capitalist? A venture capitalist links people with technology with people with money. And the people with money probably know other people with money. They don’t know people with technology and vice versa. So the broker fills this kind of structural hole and brings the two groups together.
That’s one of the things that effective networkers do. They find people who could benefit from being in contact with each other and put them in contact. And thereby, their sales profit from bringing those groups together. By the way, in order to do that, you have to do something that I think Keith really exemplifies and great networkers do, which is that you have to meet a diverse and broad set of people from a variety of industries and from a variety of walks of life.
There’s a joke I like to make with the MBAs at Stanford when I teach my class. I will come in on Monday, because we teach Monday mornings, and I will say, “How did you spend the weekend?” And they will laugh and say, “Well, you know, I spent the weekend with, of course, my close friends,” or maybe their family. To which I will say, “If you spend all your time with your current close friends, how are you ever going to make any new friends?”
We have a natural tendency as human beings to spend time with people we are comfortable with, and these are people we already know. And so one of the things that I admire about Keith and I admire about all effective networkers, is that they are willing to reach out to people that they don’t know, and from a variety of diverse industries and contexts and backgrounds and professions, as a way of meeting these folks. Once you know a diverse set of people, your odds of being able to find people who could benefit from knowing each other goes up.