Friday, August 28, 2009

Innovation in Organizing Relationships

One of the most important resources an innovator has are his/her relationships. Think about it. Where do you get your inspiration, go to ask for help in brainstorming, go for money to fund your idea, etc. Your relationships are the fabric that allow you to innovate.

But what happens in a world where relationships are exploding through social media. Now if you are a well connected person you might have up to 1000 friends on facebook and your twitter feed might have several thousand followers. But do you know any of these people? How do you organize these relationships to be effective in your ministry innovation?

I recently posted a cartoon about social networks and relationships on facebook and began a great discussion about this topic with a fellow innovator. As we talked, he shared a system he has come up with to manage relationships and make them effective in this sea of information.

Listen to him in his own words:
"I think there is a difference between "friends," "acquaintances," and "followers." I usually think of things in terms of Dunbar's number: I have my best 15 relationships, my close 50, my near 75, and my "tribal" 150. Anything beyond that is "distant horizon associates": people who follow me or whom I follow because we share common ideas, visions . . ."

The great thing about this system is that it allows you to prioritize the sea of information and connections out there and proactively stay connected to those people that you really believe are key in your life and spiritual growth. At the same time it gives you a way not to avoid the larger group - but to keep the mass of information in context.

I love what he says about the flow of information:
"The great thing is that I don't try to keep up with every Facebook/Twitter/Friendfeed post. I view them as a river or a stream that I dip into at various times."

One of the things I appreciated about his approach is that it is not static. He focuses on those relationships that are closest, but as he reads, interacts and grows personally, his system allows people to change their connection to him - closer or further away.
"The closer someone is to me, the more often I will probably be in touch with them.... my close 15 I'm probably in touch with at least once every other week if not weekly... so I'll find out what's going on in their lives from FB posts, emails, phone calls etc. typically daily or weekly. I have different levels of involvement with each of the levels (15-50-75-150-followers). I don't attempt to deepen connections with followers unless they "move" into one of the other levels..."

But you may be asking, how can you manage this in a practical way? Here is his approach:
"I have rules set up in my gmail account to automatically tag all messages from certain people according to which category they are in "best15," "close50", "near75," "tribe150" and slot them in. Then I have multiple inbox views in Gmail that let me see newest emails, as well as newest emails from best15 ... Read Moreand close50. I always respond to best15 and close50 first and then deal with everything else. And I make it a point to check in with best15 at least once a week or once every other week, just to see what they're doing, if I haven't talked to them before."

Innovation requires a proactive approach to relationships and ideas. How will you organize your relationships for greater Kingdom Impact?


Paul Nethercott said...

Thanks Jon,

These are good ideas that will help me figure out what my priorities and use my time more effectively.

I use the Internet a lot, and interact with a large number of people on facebook as well as several other social networking sites (including one, mixi, that is in Japanese). Figuring out what is important, and following through on that, is one of the biggest challenges for me. As we all know, the Internet has no focus and can be a huge distraction to the undisciplined user.

I do keep track of you on facebook, and your blogs, because I value you and what you write about is helpful to me.

Thanks again, Paul

Rombo said...

Jon I really think this is a valuable system.
It also looks as though we're now officially entering into social media use 2.0 where folk still recognise the value of online networking but are also now grappling with how to make their e-lives meaningful and effective and to put the tools at their disposal to best use.

Here's something that Michael Hyatt posted just yesterday.

As I said to Jon, I wouldn't do it quite like he's done it, (I feel I use facebook to great effect connecting with both friends and less-than-friends-more-than-acquaintances) but he's laid out some good arguments for his new social networking principles.

Let the conversation continue.

Nate said...

It sounds like techniques for skimming a book or long article applied to friendships and social networks. Maybe we could classify people as headlines, bold print, italics and regular text. People you really dislike could be fine print.

Jon and Mindy Hirst said...


Thank you for sharing the article. It was very helpful. Thanks for all you are doing to be generous!

I think in the early social media hype we focused on how big our networks could be. It was kind of like when we first invented cars and then spent a lot of time seeing how fast they could go.

Now we are asking, "How smart can our social networks be?" That is a very different question because it talks about strategic interactions that can help us grow, build relationships and reach out effectively.


Jon and Mindy Hirst said...

Thanks Paul,

I'm so glad we can connect and build a relationship in this way. If I do cut down my facebook friend list, you won't be going anywhere :) I appreciate you very much.

Jon and Mindy Hirst said...

Nate, I love the analogy. That is great!

Ellen Livingood said...

One of the challenges is that in social networking, we don't distinguish between the "social" and the "networking for other reasons."

To use the numbers in your post, for the best 15, I am happy to have the personal notations (Amazing Phillies game last night) intermingled with the serious (here's a great video on innovation). But for the 50 or 75, it would be helpful to be able to sort them by WHY I am connected to them and be able to view particular segments of their stream of postings.

I know that is way too formalized for this type of medium!!