Friday, May 23, 2008

Expanding your knowledge network

The group of people you can look to for information, advice or something more tangible (such as a job or access to a car) is often limited to those you know directly. People invest a lot of time into social or professional 'networking' to build such groups.

But just knowing a large number of people is not necessarily the most useful measure (contrary to what Facebook or LinkedIn would have you believe). Smart, successful, popular or senior-level people are typically more valuable to know and may be able to help you out when you need it. If they can't help directly, they're more likely to know people who can, and can connect you with their friends. The idea of friends-of-friends has been powerfully adopted by LinkedIn to offer some access to your expanded 2nd and even 3rd-degree network.

That's all very well, but just having access to the right kind of people may not be the best to offer expert knowledge on a specific topic. Out of all those people you have access to, how do you know who may be able to help? Having an objective and comparable view of relative expertise in different areas will be immensely valuable. Know Between attempts to nurture people's 'credibility profiles' alongside their networks and offers a powerful way to target questions to the people who are most able to help.

You're more likely to get people you know directly to help you, somewhat likely to get friends-of-friends, and will typically only get help from anyone else if you pay for it. However, there are a number of non-monetary incentives for people to help those they don't know. Internet forums such as Experts Exchange and Yahoo! Answers are good examples. Contributors get kudos, online exposure and a high ranking rather than cold cash.

Another interesting approach to get those you don't know to help is to consider knowledge trading. Everyone will benefit from knowing more about something they're interested in, even if they're the world's top expert in something else. Matching experts in one field to experts in another can be a powerful way to expand professional and social networks.

No comments: