Reid Hoffman, founder of Linkedin
Reid Hoffman, founder of LinkedIn, thinks the key to career success is understanding the dynamics of networks and how to leverage them to your benefit.
But Reid Hoffman took that truism a step further at TED on Wednesday, detailing the four attributes that makes someone “network literate” and encouraging them to “be the entrepreneur of your own life.”
The first attribute Hoffman says is necessary is having a baseline understanding of how network technology works. He noted how his personal network on LinkedIn has around 2,600 people, but that there are more than 15 million within three degrees of him.
He thinks the discussion of Dunbar’s number – the idea that one can only maintain 150 connections at one time – may be true in your mind, but is made less relevant by technology.
Moving on, Hoffman has a new spin on the familiar adage “you are the company you keep.” Using the term “network identity” to describe the connections that one has, he says, “the brand of you is not just what you broadcast about yourself, but what others say about you.”
He notes that Zynga – one of the companies he’s invested in – initially thought of itself as a gaming company, but its users do not think of themselves as gamers, but rather the games they play give them a network identity.
Once you’ve established a network and a network identity, Hoffman believes the most important skill is being able to derive information from it. In fact, he argues that being an “expert” has more to do with being able to find the right information than actually knowing it.
He notes how when he’s looking for an opinion on a prospective startup investment, he’ll reach out to members of his network and ask for a 1-10 rating of the entrepreneur.
As an extension of that, Hoffman says the last piece of being network literate is understanding and developing your network’s capabilities. Again using his investment philosophy as an example, Hoffman says that he doesn’t, “form a thesis and find people that fit it … rather I network with the people that will bring me interesting entrepreneurs. “
The timing of Hoffman’s talk is not coincidental – he recently published the business book “The Start-Up of You,” which explores many of the principles outlined in his TED talk and details why the network is the competitive advantage in today’s career landscape.