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The Internet of People

You’ve heard of the Internet of things – being able to control the heat in your house or turn on / off your burglar alarm, or switch on your electric oven from your smartphone. You can visit your local appliance store and buy smart fridge / freezers that know what you have inside without you looking and which also know what the use-by dates are. It’s all clever stuff.

The Internet is not limited to things, however.

The Internet of people is here, too, and to a much greater extent than the things we own. The difference is that people design how things connect, but the connections between people already existed. We’re only just beginning to learn how to use the possibilities.



In the early days, even before the Internet was made available to the public, Ivan Misner, PhD, a management consultant in California, was looking through his book of business cards. He needed some business, and he was searching for someone he could contact for that purpose.

As he reviewed the cards, he noticed something that he hadn’t seen before. It was that various combinations of his customers could do business with each other.

Here’s an example of the sort of thing that he noticed.

When you buy a house, what services do you need to enable you to complete the sale? Answer? Estate agent, solicitor, bank or building society (probably), and a surveyor.

Nowadays, you’ll find the estate agent may work closely with a particular funding source; but this wasn’t always the case.

Misner reasoned that his clients could benefit from being introduced to one another; and it was from that little bit of enlightenment that the international company BNI – Business Network International – was born. The company is the largest business referral business in the world. Today it has 200,000 members in more than 7,500 chapters. In 2015 alone, they generated $9.3 million of business for each other. That’s the power of networking.

Since then, many other business networking organizations have been formed; but none of them have achieved the level of success that this one has.


The Internet of people

The Internet, of course, has enabled people to connect with each other more easily than ever before. Not only are companies able to do business more easily with each other, but organizations can find its customers with less effort.

Think, for example, of what has happened in the taxi industry. It used to be that you had to wave for a cab, and that was only if you could find one; unlike in a Hollywood movie where they seem to be queueing only for you. Uber changed that. With a smartphone, you can now connect with a driver directly and bypass the taxi companies altogether.

Or what about the hospitality industry? It doesn’t matter if there’s a big conference in town any more. You’re not at the mercy of the hotel chains. AirBnB has enabled people with a spare room to become instant hoteliers for one night or any night.

The various crowdfunding sites have bypassed the venture capital industry. Projects that otherwise would have been of no interest to them and would have been laughed at by the “dragons” are funded by hundreds of thousands of people who believe in something, and no one has to give up part of the business to do it. The tiniest of investors are just excited to be part of something that would otherwise be beyond their reach; and they even get a product at a knock-down price for their participation.

These examples illustrate how the dynamics of supply and demand have changed. Each platform has enabled people to connect with alternative sources of supply.


There’s another way that the Internet of People has shown itself and that’s by the feedback that they give on the products and services they buy. Perhaps the best known place is Amazon, where customers leave reviews on their personal experience with the functionality and delivery of the products they bought.

TripAdvisor provides a place for reviews about restaurants, hotels, B & Bs, and places of entertainment.

You can no longer assume that everything is okay because no one is complaining on your Comments’ Cards. You should be monitoring Twitter instead.

And speaking of Twitter, customers know that this may be the best place to vent their complaints because their comments can go viral. Twitter cards allow people to post pictures, videos and now, because of a change to the 140-character limit, long URLs.

Customers like to talk about the good experiences they’ve had and also to complain about the bad ones. They feel duty-bound to help you to avoid wasting money like they did.


What does the Internet of People have to do with you? It’s that it reflects the degree to which we are all connected. John Donne’s assertion that “no man (or woman) is an island” could not be more true.

You don’t live in isolation. It’s impossible. You may be lonely. Many people are. In fact, the remarkably connected society that we live in has contributed to the isolation and loneliness that so many people experience. People can work from home, watch television and movies on their computers, and shop online – even for things as basic as bread and eggs. With an internet connection, no one ever needs to leave home.

That’s the negative side of our connected world.


The positive side looks different.

We can connect with people all over the world. Before the Internet, we were limited to our neighbours, those we worked with, or hung out with. Often, all three groups had the same members.

Nowadays, you can meet people online. According to one source more than nine million of them in the UK alone have used an online dating site since 2000.

You can also recruit from a wider pool of candidates than you could in the past. This is especially important because of the shortage of skilled labour in this country.

Online applications can reduce the costs of attendants to the work time required to process them, and VOIP enables you to conduct a “face to face” job interview if you have the bandwidth to support it.

You could be forgiven for thinking to yourself, “So what?” All of this has been around for some years. Apart from faster Internet speeds, which have improved sound and picture quality, none of this is new.

But you’d be wrong to think that.


What’s new?

So what is new?

Two things.

The first is the significance of speed.


Significance of speed

This is something that we all of us take for granted. That we are able to do so much in what we call real-time has lost its true meaning. It has become commonplace. We expect it, and when we don’t get it, then we think that whatever we’re doing at the moment must be broken in some way.

For example, how long do you wait for a website to load before you consider your connection to be slow? Five seconds? Three seconds? Google says that ecommerce sites should load in two seconds. They aim for less than 0.5 seconds.

What that means is that anything less than almost instantaneous is thought to be not worth the time.

Think about your role as a leader or manager. Do you expect people to respond more quickly than they used to? To work faster, to produce more, and even to do so with less? And do you recognize that some things take time, whether you like it or not?

Relationships are like that. It’s been said that the UK is behind the US by about 20 years in most things. Let’s hope that we never try to find a shortcut to developing solid relationships.


Extent of networks

That brings us to the next thing which is the extent of networks.

The Internet of People is worldwide. Years ago, the idea that everyone in the world was separated by six people. The so-called Six Degrees of Separation is the stuff of fantasy. In some circles it is much less than that. In others, far more. And the further out that you go from your point of contact, the weaker the relationships become so that even if you are reasonably “close” to someone, you’ll never be allowed to contact him / her because the relationship isn’t strong enough.

Don’t believe me?

Think about this. What do you think your chances would be of say having lunch with the Queen? How many degrees of separation are there? 1) Your MP; 2) the PM; 3) the Queen. Only three, but you still won’t get the chance. You’ll probably have to settle for a garden party.

The website LinkedIn, however, has capitalized on the extent of networks. It has made it more likely that you will be able to connect personally with someone that you want to. Why is that? Because if you get an email from someone who is in your LinkedIn network, then you’re much more likely to open it and perhaps even reply than if you received it cold. You see, the social network has already made the initial introduction so that instead of it being a cold call, it’s at least lukewarm.


How many connections are possible?

A serious LinkedIn member will have more than 500 connections. So let’s use that number.

Suppose on average each of your 500 connections has only one connection. That would give you 1000 altogether; your 500 plus the 500 from those you’re connected with.

What would happen if the average was 10? Then you’d have 5,000 connections.

An average of 100 connections in each of your 500 connections would give you access to 50,000 people, and that’s only to the second tier.

So you can see that just by using one social network you can reach thousands of people with not a lot of effort. And the thing is that once you start getting those connections, other people will ask if they can join your network.

From this social network alone, you can not only look for suitable applicants, but also for a new job for yourself.

But here is a sobering thought. So can your employees.

If you’re the manager or leader that you should be, then this shouldn’t concern you. If you aren’t, then there may still be time for you to clean up your act.


The homework this time is a bit more complicated.

First, write down three statements that describe what the Internet of People means for your organization. If you’re a sole proprietor, then choose one of your customers, preferably one that you’re working with right now.

Next, describe what you’re doing differently as a result of the increased speed you’ve experienced in the scenario you used in the previous step. If you’re not sure where to start, then think about what it was like say five years ago or two years ago, and then compare it with what’s happening today.

Finally, ask yourself how you can use your network to help improve the situation in that scenario. Again, if you’re unsure what that might look like, then compare it to what you did in the past. This will help you to see either a period of growth or one of shrinkage. From that you’ll be able to identify what you need to change in order to make things better.


Then let us know how you got on.



If you would benefit from building better, stronger connections more quickly or more widely – send me an email to arrange an initial chat

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