Networks – such as those available via LinkedIn or Facebook – are much praised for bringing people together to enable them to share such things as information, ideas and even job offers. Yet one of the worst features of networks that they are likely to only encourage like-minded people to get together.
I agree that I haven’t found many of them but there are few things more dull and disappointing than a like-minded person. Unless your idea of a good time is spending an evening in your own company or a prolonged spell on a desert island, it’s a good idea to treat the like-minded with contempt.
All the good things about networking – sharing intelligence, spreading best practice, stimulating debate, challenging received wisdom and so on – can become dull tools in the wrong hands. If networks only encourage those who already agree with each other to cluster together in bigger, more agreeable groups, there can be little progress.
Instead, we should be using today’s technology to seek out people with a different point of view. This should encourage higher levels of group energy and a higher quality of debate. So, before you start another club for people just like you, check that there isn’t a more interesting but maybe more challenging club already open.
Groucho Marx famously declined an invitation to join a Hollywood club on the grounds that he didn’t care to belong to any institution that would have someone like him as a member. His insight is worth applying to today’s social networks.
Basically, find a club that doesn’t want you as a member and beat the door down to get in.