Metcalfe’s Law: The Value Of A Network (323)

Metcalfe’s Law was originally about telecommunications networks.

The value of a network grows in proportion to the square of the number of users, which means once a network reaches a certain size, it becomes somewhat irresistibly attractive.

Tim Sanders in his classic book, LOVE IS THE KILLER APP, wrote this:

“Someday this will be true for all of us: Our network will equal our net worth.”

Tim cited Metcalfe’s Law in the book. And with solid logic and clear understanding. He makes a great point that while not all connections will result in something positive, the cost is virtually nothing, which means you’ve lost nothing. Psychologically you may feel you lost something, but Sander’s advice is spot on, in my opinion. Get over it.

It’s Not Who You Know, But It’s Who Knows You

I’ve mostly been comfortable with who and what I am. Sure, like most, I’m able to daydream of what it’d be like to be more athletic, more musically talented, a gifted cartoonist, a talented novelist and many other endeavors that seem beyond my capacities. And I’m able to daydream of what it’d be like to be more socially extroverted, to be somebody who really enjoys crowds, to be somebody who is more of “life of the party” kind of person. But I’m not that guy and mostly I’m good with it.

But I confess if there was one thing I wish I had done better…one thing I wish my natural wiring would have more easily facilitated…it would be to be comfortable in crowds. To be more extroverted.

It’s not who I’ve ever been. While I can appear extroverted, I’m truly not. And it’s exhausting to me. I used to confuse that personality trait with the ability to effectively network. While it may be true that an extrovert can create a bigger network faster, it doesn’t mean the network is more effective.

Today, I’ve only got one intention – to encourage you to think of your network while thinking of the networks of which you’re a part. More importantly, I want to inspire you to connect for the sake of value. First, the value you can provide. Next, the value you may be able to gain. But…

If neither happen, it’s fine.

If only one happens, then make sure you provide the value. That’s more important than you getting value – although, it’s easy to argue that by providing value you’re automatically getting value. I mean some more qualitative value though.

A few weeks ago I had an Ethernet cable that connected my computer to my modem. The connector going into my computer wasn’t able to make a solid connection. The result? My computer network – a network required for my computer to access the Internet – was broken. A new cable restored the connection.

Think of yourself that way. Do it first inside your company with your team. Do it for your team members. Remember, the value of the network is the number of users. More is better. In human connections, quality matters. That is, the value each human connection can provide matters.

I get Linkedin requests constantly from people who want a connection because they want to extract something from me. People anxious to sell me something. If somebody sent me a connection request telling me upfront, “Hi, Randy. I noticed you work with CEOs, entrepreneurs and executives. I work with other service professionals like you and I’d like to share with you some of the services I provide to help professionals save time and money.” At least it would be an honest connection request. But most don’t do that. They send a bait and switch connection request and if I connect almost immediately I get a long sales pitch message. It’s sleazy and shows me they aren’t interested in any kind of a value proposition. They’re certainly not that interested in me, except as a potential paying customer. And I respect sales and marketing. Just honest sales and marketing.

Who can you bring value?

Who can bring value to you?

Who can you connect with somebody else for mutual benefit?

Some think the power of a network is measured only in dollars, but I think that’s perhaps the lowest way to measure it. At least in the short term. It’s a transactional view of connections. Making a buck right here, right now. The longer-term view doesn’t care about making a sale today because the value of the investment over time is exponentially higher.

Think of the people with whom you may have connected if only for…some reason or excuse.

I habitually reach out (usually by Linkedin because of the nature of that platform) to article or book authors whose work has impacted me. Just a quick note of thanks. Nothing more. No expectation on my part. I’m even surprised if they respond at all.

I also reach out to random business people whose story may have been written about somewhere. People with whom I can relate, or with whom I resonate because of the way they lead and operate. Again, it’ll usually be just a quick note saying how much I enjoyed hearing or reading about their work and letting them know I’m inspired by how they roll.

Sometimes I’m able to connect somebody with somebody else because I think they might benefit from knowing each other. I’ll introduce them then follow up to make sure they’ve at least contacted each other. From there, it’s up to them.

Once in a while, I’m honored to be able to connect somebody to a specific person they’ve wanted to be introduced to. Doesn’t happen very often because I’m not a master connector, but I’d like to become more masterful. I’d like you to become more masterful, too.

It’s how we can all help each other. With a spirit and intention of providing the most value possible for others first. The benefits will automatically flow to us and it’ll help all our boats float higher in the water.

Be well. Do good. Grow great!


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