If you want to make and use connections that matter, Richard Koch and Greg Lockwood suggest that you ask yourself two questions:
- Is this the right hub for me?
- Do I know how to use my weak links?
In this provocative book, spurned by one critic, Koch and Lockwood discuss hubs and links, the strong and weak ones.
Hubs are the groups you live with – your family, business workplace, golf partners, religious societies, alumni organizations, and political parties. Hubs save you time by aggregating information specific to their purpose and give you launch points into connected hubs. Koch and Lockwood think that you are in the right hub if you believe it:
- Gives you the specialized knowledge that you need.
- Permits you to act free of authority bias and group-think.
Good hubs never go out of your life. When you are a member, they give the daily information and contacts that you need. After you move on, old hubs remain links in your extended network that you can call on for future service.
The thinking of Koch and Lockwood becomes counter-intuitive when they discuss the personal links in your life. You have strong links – your wife, children, boss, and old school chums. And you have weak links – the peer that you meet once a year at a business conference, the receptionist you say hello to on a regular basis at your client’s office, your neighbor down the block, and the foreigner you often talk with in the coffee shop near your office.
What’s the Use of a Weak Link?
You need work and new customers; your thinking needs updating to stay current; you need to find a new hub because you old hubs don’t have the specialized knowledge you need. Do you turn for answers to your strong links or your weak links?
Koch and Lockwood write that your weak links are sources of innovation and the greatest profits, while your strong links can be the most destructive and demotivating. Their thinking seems wrong. The strong links nurture and protect you. They tell you that you are a loved person. They mother you. And that is why strong links can keep you in a rut and comfortable. Growing, learning, and achieving require that you become comfortable with being uncomfortable.
Weak links challenge you. Is that link a friend or foe? Linking with a brilliant person keeps you paranoid about competition, gives you a devil’s advocate for your thinking, encourages you to take the U-turns your parents would never permit, demands that you look for new customers and markets, and asks you to associate with dissidents you dislike.
Strong and Weak Links in Economic Development
Koch and Lockwood compare how strong and weak links are used in developed and underdeveloped countries.
Weak Links in a Developed Economy
Western economies grew out of their feudal economies using the contract, the paragon of a weak link relationship. Exchanges of commodities in feudal Europe were based on social rank (the lord provides protection in exchange for the serf’s grain) and custom (tithing to the king and church). Contracts leveled the field for doing business (anyone can contract), demolished barriers created by customs (the parties to the contract agree on the terms of their agreement), and set the rewards (you can work for a peppercorn or a $1 million dollars). But most importantly, contracts amplified the power of weak links. You can do business outside your family circle. Now you can go to the town square and contract with the seller with the best terms if you trust him. Which gets back to the problem with weak links.
Is your contracting partner a friend or a foe? To answer that question, developed counties created the law of contracts and property rights to put the force of the state behind the enforcement of contracts. If your contract met the legal requirements, you could use the state to enforce the agreement. This created an expectation that the terms of contracts would be enforced. Now you could do business with anyone outside your family if they know the rules and submit to the jurisdiction of the enforcing authority. Modern capitalism took off and wealth grew exponentially.
These are the lessons the developing countries are learning.
Strong Links Dominate an Underdeveloped Economy
Underdeveloped countries exclude classes of people from using their weak links to do business with strangers and casual acquaintances. Nations without a legacy of laws and standardized enforcement require common citizens to do business with their networks of families, neighbors, and close social relationships. The privileged in these countries use their government connections to enforce agreements at the will of the state. Demanding a contract be enforced could become a prison sentence for a commoner.
Weak Links Have Economic Value
In developed countries, weak social and economic links thrive and receive state sanction. These counties have highly developed laws regulating property rights, contacts, credit and banking, and the valuing of goodwill – a commodity without value in feudal Europe and most underdeveloped countries.
Hubs put you in touch with the specialized information you need for work and advancement. Hubs serve you when you are an active member and after you leave if you keep up with the hub. Not all hubs are right for you, and hubs can go bad, requiring that you take action. We know the story of President Obama divorcing himself from his former pastor to get the hub out of his political life.
Strong links make you feel good as a person, while weak links teach you to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. When you are uncomfortable, you are on the move to learn, create, and achieve beyond the dreams of your parents.
I recommend Superconnect by Richard Koch Richard and Greg Lockwood.