21stC Networking – Hands, Rifles, Shotguns and the Russian Revolution

You must have had those moments when a topic bombards you from all directions. I had that recently with many different sources suddenly bombarding me on the same topic and all agreeing. Uncanny. To spare you the hassle of being besieged and having to think it through yourself here is the current best-practice, 21stC networking theory.


Let’s start by going back just over a century to a dispute between Lenin and Martov over the editorial board of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party newspaper. From tiny acorns do large oak trees grow and this widens into a split between the Bolsheviks (you’ve heard of them) and Mensheviks (finally some purpose to my history O level 😀 ). Ironically the Bolsheviks (from the Russian for “majority”) believed in a tightly knit cadre (you can see how this led quite easily to dictatorship) and the Mensheviks (“minority”) a much broader-based party.

Just in case you think I have lost the plot 😀 … fast-forwarding – do you, like the Bolsheviks, want  handfuls of “party-members” actively contributing to your cause? Or like the Mensheviks hundreds, thousands of passive “party members” on LinkedIn/Facebook et al?

Right now many people are going the Menshevik route – quantity over quality (of commitment).  However in terms of real business development I would argue that you should learn from history and go the Bolshevik route.

Derek Coburn in his new book agrees with me:

Networking-is-not-workingHe is an American money manager who got into organising networking events and found that small more tightly-knit groups function far more effectively – quality over quantity again. Interestingly – my theme song of “21stC Overload” – he finds that it needs facilitating by him as the organiser chasing folks up as otherwise networking-event-follow-up sits on “to do” lists and never gets completed.

I have long used the analogy of how you can contact hands.  As per my recent post on The Internet and Candyfloss Addiction, technology and neurochemistry tend to conspire to drive us down the fleeting and superficial route.

Consequently most networking looks like this:

Fingers-touching1But what really makes a difference to your business development is doing this:


Mitch Joel interviewed Coburn in his recent podcast and they concluded that people reliably do business with people they know, like and trust.

Now this is hardly earth-shattering news 🙂 But it’s not how people act – most folks are busy playing the numbers game. But the facts are that no-one – no matter how glitzy your “pitch” – is going to hand you their Rolodex based on “touching fingers”.

“Menshevik networking” – a race for numbers – is like “drilling hundreds of shallow holes looking for water”.  You have to dig deep holes to find water.

Finally when it looks like I have slam dunked y’all into agreeing with me lets add a twist of lemon…

warren cass

I recently attended an entertaining talk by Warren Cass of Business Scene – a UK-based networking group that has – surprise, surprise – found that in practice “no one opens their wallet to strangers” and the exchange of business cards generally amounts to nothing. However he added a great and important nuance to this argument…

If you are new to a “scene” (country, market, sector etc) you have to go for a shotgun approach – you need leads, any leads.  Over time however (due to how time-consuming it is weeding out the wheat from the chaff) you will find that you have to be far more “rifle” in your time allocation (a Coburn conclusion too).


So what is your behaviour? Are you a Bolshevik or Menshevik? Do you hold hands with a few or touch fingers with many?

What is your take-away from this post?  What will you think of changing? Has this post helped you?



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