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The No. 1 Predictor Of Career Success According To Network Science - Forbes


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This is perhaps the most well-received article that I've ever written. It's on the power of open networks.

Any thoughts on why it was so well received?

Yes! I think it hits on part of people's identity that they can relate to and haven't voiced.More specifically, we live in a world with a lot of siloes and mentalities that are siloed. There is a large group who don't fit into one group and have lots of interests and lots of different circles. They often feel like outsiders and haven't learned how to turn this difference into a strength. Others are parts of different groups and have learned how to connect them and almost use it as their competitive advantage for their career. But this approach to career isn't talked about as much compared to the approach of being razor focused. One observation about writing overall is that people react much more strongly when the article goes beyond simply knowledge transfer to hitting on celebrating an identity that is often unappreciated by others. This is one of my guesses on why Adam Grant's book did so well. It did this for the community of Givers.

Adam Grant does sometimes talk about how we must sometimes look outside our own networks.

I think you're right that the people who can go between networks and make connections do a great service to the people they are connecting.

Often the most interesting ideas come when two people of different domains connect.

Adam - Out of curiosity, have you noticed differences in impact when you connect people in different domains vs. the same domain?

Yes, when they actually connect, which is actually rare.

Most people don't like to leave the comfort zone of others who share their domain.

The bottom line: 

According to multiple, peer-reviewed studies, simply being in an open network instead of a closed one is the best predictor of career success.

In the chart, the further to the right you go toward a closed network, the more you repeatedly hear the same ideas, which reaffirm what you already believe. The further left you go toward an open network, the more you’re exposed to new ideas. People to the left are significantly more successful than those to the right.

In fact, the study shows that half of the predicted difference in career success (i.e., promotion, compensation, industry recognition) is due to this one variable.

You can apply these economic success principles to societies as well as individuals... most open, large societies achieve financially better results than small, closed ones.

Agreed Rob!

Hey Michael, I can dig the:

 "That makes me a half-black, half-white, 6’5” guy born into a half-Christian half-Jewish family. Growing up in the almost entirely white, middle-class suburb of Hopewell, NJ, made me feel like an outsider on some level."

I'm a first-generation Merikan semite with an English-Hungarian mother and a Lebanese-Jamaican father... so it's easy for me to posit we are all outsiders.  I've also found even within the so-called whitebread communities there are always smaller and smaller levels of increasing insularity and exclusiveness – there appears to be a natural gravitational force of social relations towards small, closed network existence.

One great question your article presents for us individually (and perhaps collectively) is whether or not we are curious enough, at every stage of life, to actually stand up, go look around with open eyes and ears and ask questions about what's going on... reminds me why the ancient Levantine, Greek and Roman cultures did so well.

I hadn't looked at any studies of personal curiosity dispositions as correlate to ongoing success, but I think your insight into Jobs is excellent and on point.  And is symptomatic of a more commonly overlooked skill set – a learning disposition.

Whenever I select people for innovation projects I always bias the grouping to those with learning dispositions and the simplest behavioral heuristic for determining that skill is observing their ratio of declarative statements made to questions asked... 

So your point makes total sense: curiosity and quality listening is a very powerful skill set, but either alone it is not enough... "smile (if you understand) and ask" wins the day, everyday.  Add those skills to the uncompromising focus on quality that Jobs had and you've got Yahtzee!

And that quality focus reminds me of another great titan of creative industry: Walt Disney.

Love it Rob! I've never thought about curiosity at a cultural and historical level. You mentioning Levantine, Greek, and Roman cultures piqued my curiosity. Any books you know of that talk about curiosity at a cultural level?Also, when people say they like the article, I often ask why. To your point, one of the responses is that they feel pressure to grow up and have less curiosity as they get older and they felt like the article presented the perspective that they didn't have to 'grow up' in that sense of the words. 

I haven't really found any books explicitly treating the insight of curiosity at the level of a societal driver or cultural artifact... I was just making a casual observation from being a wide-ranging reader of history and being curious about what makes things happen.

Perhaps understanding curiosity is too simplistic and common sense a heuristic for serious academic research or commercial financial return, but the one volume that comes closest to cultivating insight into this proposition is Boorstin's narrative about The Discovers, which makes the point indirectly by examining individuals who vanquished the antithesis of curiosity – an illusion of knowing:

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His thesis about discovery ultimately turns on what he calls "illusions of knowledge." If we think we know something, then we face an obstacle to innovation. The great discoverers, Boorstin shows, dispel the illusions and reveal something new about the world.

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http://www.amazon.com/The-Discoverers-Daniel-J-Boorstin/dp/0394726251

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And by corollary we could probably just as easily show all great discoverers were at heart curious people, but in what relative measure to also being greedy, scabrous bastards or benign interlopers in their fields we'll never know...  here's a few common folks to start stacking the deck in arguing for higher value to be placed on curiosity:

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Stephen Hawking quote...

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and perhaps in rebuttal to Curie's field of work...

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Thanks! Just purchased the book, and I look forward to diving in.

Awesome... Curiosity killed the cat, but satisfaction brought it back!

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