So, yes, science has started to find it's really true that it's not what you know, it's who you know. The deeper and more diverse the relationships you have, the more vulnerable you'll be to innovation, success, and other forms of serendipity.
If that's true, how do we build our networks without being scumbags? We could emuate Arianna Huffington and network without networking: "The most important quality is attention—like are you really present, fully present?" And when you pay attention, she says, you can have real conversations that build real relationships.
But it's not just about making friends; it's also about making things happen. Since good ideas demand feedback and are thus super social, the more awesome people we know, the better our ideas can become. Kanye West, for instance, walks around reciting his raps to people to test them before recording, and Darwin spent 20 years talking to people about evolution before writing The Origin of Species.
Carol Dweck, the Stanford professor of psychology, said it much better than we could:
You are not ever a genius all by yourself. Your ideas are a function of the people you are connected with, the ideas you are exposed to, the friction of other ideas, and so on.
So the question lingering is how to meet those people and start these conversations in the first place. One answer is to befriend—or become—a matchmaker.
They connect people: bringing them together, finding common interests, introducing them to the tribe.
Dumb Little Man blogger David Morin has an idea how:
If you’re heading to the movies with a friend, invite another film-loving pal to come along. Love sports? Assemble a group to attend the big game. Spearhead gatherings at your home or a fun venue such as a wine bar, inviting at least a few people who are new to the group.
Social science shows that people form relationships—including the hiring courtship of employers and employees—when they find something in common. The matchmaker, then, is alert to any potential commonalities, because she knows that interconnections create value for the whole group.
And this goes for weirdo social situations such as when you're trying to make friends at a conference (or at least survive one).
To know that, let's turn again to Morin, who has a gracious, if unforgiving, sense of manners:
When out with a friend, many people make the mistake of failing to introduce them to others they may encounter. By doing so, you run the risk of coming off as socially inept at best and rude or uncaring at worst.
So let's become socially adept. As Huffington might say, it starts with paying attention.
Hat tip: Dumb Little Man