What are you holding onto?
We’re stuck in a scarcity mentality. It’s one more way that our old-school worldviews keep biting at our heels as we race ahead into the new world.
We think connections are a finite resource and that every connection someone else makes means fewer for another person. Networks don’t work that way, though–every new node makes the network richer.
One of the lessons of the The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid is that capitalism isn’t fluid enough. People in certain areas can’t get even the small amounts of capital they need to jumpstart their own entrepreneurial economies because the capital is being held. Frozen. Worthless. For capital to grow, it must be kept in motion. Money does talk, or at least it needs to.
In fact, one of the lessons of depression economics is that when money (which of course is only a stand-in for value in general) stops moving, trouble ensues, and I’m proposing today that much the same is happening in social networks. We see numerous studies showing that a small percentage of people create most of the content and that sites like Google and Facebook are dominating traffic. Meanwhile, we continue to measure success primarily by volume–how many, how much.
Cooperation gain doesn’t come naturally when competition is so highly valued. And yet, when one of us wins, we’re all a little richer. If you make more money, you have more to buy from me. If you’re healthy, you can spend money (or time or attention) on other things. This is among the points of the great new book The Mesh — that, counterintuitively, sharing can make us wealthier. Capital shared intelligently can be more effective than leaving capital idle.
Note that you have to have some capital to spread–so by all means, go out and earn it. Make as much as you can–do well. Make lots of connections. Make quality connections. The only point of this post is that you have to keep sharing it for it to grow and return value to you.
What does this mean in practice? A few simple things come to mind:
- Produce. What you make is yours. That’s the entrepreneurial way–it’s what the United States was founded on. There’s an online landrush going on (and don’t be fooled…we’re just now in the homesteading phase) and it’s time to get your plot together.
- Don’t re-create wheels. When you make, make something new. Add value and efficiency to the system by being original. Look for blue oceans to swim in.
- Share. You have to keep investing in the system. Make connections not only for yourself but for others as well. Tip your hat to others when they do well, tell your friends about useful things that may not necessarily help you today, and look for opportunities to contribute. Recommend someone on LinkedIn. Comment on a blog. Find a new blog to read. You don’t have to…but it makes sense to.
As I’ve written before, if you give away everything you can give away, you will have nothing to fear from competitors, because all that’s left will be yours. That’s what you earn. If you forget the platform, though, you’re essentially eating your own seed corn. So quit hoarding and get out there and spread that social capital.
What do you think? Are we still operating in a natural-resources model that no longer applies? How could we better spread our social capital to help the larger network?