In his bestselling book, The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell identified three personality types that create and influence social epidemics: the Mavens, the Salespeople and the Connectors. But much has changed since Gladwell’s book came out in 2006.
Back then, maybe only a certain portion of people fell into the category of connector – which Gladwell described mainly as the person who knows the most people – but in today’s world, to be a successful entrepreneur, to start a social movement or get your product noticed, we all need to be connectors, in one form or another.
With the ubiquity of new media platforms and online communities, our connective capabilities allow more than just developing a large social circle. While Gladwell’s work was groundbreaking, today the key is not figuring out if you are a connector but rather what type of connector you are. Then you can determine how to best use the connections and skills that you have and combine them with the strengths of others.
In my new book Get Big Things Done: The Power of Connectional Intelligence, my co-author Saj-nicole Joni and I identify three specific types of Connectors, and showcase the entrepreneurs who typify them. If you’re wondering how to take your business to the next level, read on for three examples of entrepreneurs who leverage their unique connectional intelligence to thrive in our crowdfunded, open sourced, and constantly disrupted world:
These are the people who connect with and generate the groundbreaking ideas. Their greatest strength is curiosity. They help see the big picture and imagine all possibilities. They are most comfortable among inventive people with an original take on life. They are always asking, “What if?”
Luis von Ahn is the inventor of Duolingo, a free online language learning platform that also serves as a crowd-sourced text translation system. In Duolingo, when learners reach a certain level, the sentences they practice on are actual sentences from news websites that need translation. When enough people get the same translation, the system considers it accurately translated and uses it. Done at scale, this method of translating basic website content is as accurate as using professional translators. As a Thinker, Luis was able to connect the dots in technology, culture, language and information in a way that no one had before.
No. 1 Tip for Thinkers: Build alliances with partners who have common interests and missions, but different skills or needs, in order to turn your ideas into action.
These are the people who create the structures, forces and teams used to get big things done. They are the behind the scenes connectors who build communities or rally grassroots support around a common cause.
Ben Kaufman is the founder of Quirky, a platform which allows everyday people to bring their inventions to life. By inviting anyone to submit ideas and then crowd-sourcing everything from the design to the naming of a product, Quirky cuts through the processes that typically slow down manufacturing and invites more creative people to get their ideas on a store shelf.
No. 1 Tip for Enablers: Look to break or reverse rules or processes that are holding back progress. Think about some common assumptions that prevent different groups from working together. Find out how to work around them to allow more diverse, non-traditional connections.
The Connection Executor
These are the people who mobilize all the people and resources needed to get big things done. Connection Executors connect intelligently with people beyond their particular fields and are able to spot patterns that facilitate new opportunities. Their greatest strength is mobilization.
A great example of this strategy in action is Jennifer Fleiss and Jennifer Hyman, founders of Rent the Runway. By putting all the pieces together to allow consumers to rent — instead of buy — from major designers, more people than ever have access to designer clothes. Even more than that, they opened up a whole new segment of consumers to designer brands and disrupted the way we think about owning clothing.
No. 1 Tip for Connection Executors: You are a mashup of what you let into your life. Be intentional in choosing your teachers, your friends, the books you read, and the movies you watch. You can see differently by connecting with new people, ideas and resources.
One of the most important ways to leverage connectional intelligence is to pay attention to who in your life are thinkers, enablers or connection executors. Identify how you can combine your strengths with colleagues who might fit into a different category. Noticing someone else’s strengths will allow you to interact with them on the most effective level. Thinking about the way you use your connections will broaden the possibilities of how you work with others, and will help you get big things done as an entrepreneur.
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