The Australian Small Business Blog

Saturday, May 26, 2007

The Six Degrees of Separation Myth

WHAT DO SANTA CLAUS, the Easter Bunny, and six degrees of separation have in common? The answer is - people all around the world believe in them. But, since I don't wish to do an expose on Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny, I'm going to leave those icons alone. I want to talk about the six degrees of separation idea. This is the widely held belief that we are all connected to each other through, at most, six intermediary connections or people.

I'm sorry to be'the bearer of bad tidings, but it's just not true. In fact, it is a widespread urban legend. I know, I know - you're thinking, "What? That can't be! It's common knowledge that we are all separated by six connections to anyone in the world." Well, I hate to burst your bubble, but the idea that we are all connected through six degrees of separation is rooted in myth.

The legend originally stems from several 'small world experiments' conducted by Stanley Milgram in the 1960s and '70s. These experiments involved sending folders or letters from a group of people in one part of the country to a specific person (whom they did not know) in another part of the country. The people were told to get the material to someone who might know someone who would know the individual to whom the material was to be delivered to. This process formed a chain of connections linking the people together.

It was, in fact, found that the letters or folders, which eventually arrived in the right person's hands, took, on average, between five and six connections or degrees. This part is true; however, if you look closer, you will discover the problems that exist within the blanket statement that 'we are all connected by six degrees.'

First off, though the average number of links for people who got the material through to the final contact was five or six connections, the majority of the connections that were made ranged from two to ten (the average was five to six), This means that roughly half took more than six and roughly half less than six. Well, you say, that's the average and I would agree that there's nothing wrong with addressing this concept by the average, but there's one small problem. The overwhelming majority of people in all of Milgram's studies never got the material to the intended recipient at all!

In Milgram's most successful study, "217 chains were started and 64 were completed - a success rate of only 29per cent." That's right - a success rate of less than one third of the participants! So, what this means is that 29 per cent of the people in Milgram's most successful study were separated on average by six degrees from the final contact person. However, that means that 71 per cent were not connected at all!

But wait, I'm afraid it gets worse. This was Milgram's most successful study. In another of his studies, only five per cent of the participants completed the chain, which means that 95 per cent of thepeople in the study never made the link to the person they were supposed to connect to at all - ever!

So, why would I, someone who has devoted most of his professional career to business networking, be telling everyone about the Achilles heel of this iconic concept upon which a lot of networking pros hang their hats?

Well, there are two reasons. First of all, I believe this myth creates complacency. The thought that everyone is absolutely connected to everyone else on the planet by six degrees gives some people a falsesense of expectation and thus lulls them into a sense that the connection is bound to happen sooner or later, no matter what they do.

Secondly, and most importantly, the studies' findings indicate clearly that some people are better connected than others. I believe that's important because it means that this is a skill that can be acquired. With reading, training, and coaching, people can develop their networking skills, increase their connections, and become part of the roughly 29 per cent of people that are, in fact, separated from the rest of the world by only six degrees.

The good news in all of this is that it is possible to be part of the 29 per centthrough education, practice, and training. We can be connected to anyone through the power and potential of networking. In fact, by understanding that, we can setourselves aside from our competition by knowing that being able to make successful connections is not an entitlement. Instead, it is a skill that only some actually develop.

As for the 71 per cent of people who are not connected and yet still believe in the six degrees of separation concept keep the faith. You'll always have Santa Claus.

This article was written by Dr Ivan Misner, the Founder of BNI. (No link available.)

The Australian Small Business Blog

Monday, May 21, 2007

Diary of a New Business 10 - The Workflow Process

No business can survive without processes and procedures. But when starting a new business, detailed processes can often wait and evolve as the business grows. The initial way of doing things is rapidly replaced with a better way of doing things. So spending a lot of time on systems before you launch can result in unnecessary delays in your launch. Afterall, when you start, you are generally not that busy, so many of your systems can grow with your business.

That is not to say that you can’t start without any systems. You must have some idea on how you are going to provide your services. The fundamentals must be in place. But if you intend to automate things, quite detailed planning is necessary.

With a manual process, you don’t have to think about every contingency. If something only happens rarely, you can take the view that you will address the process for that when the time arises. But if you intend to automate your systems, the logic of what happens next has to be considered so that the automation can handle it.

As the Australian Business Coaching Club was to be largely automated, the steps for each visitor to the website had to be considered one-by-one. The visitor decides to optin- but fills in the form incorrectly. If there is not an error checking process, I could lose a lead. Here are some other questions that I asked:

· What are the steps a visitor must take to a sale?
· What are the automated follow-ups?
· What alternatives should be given and managed?
· What payment options?
· How to manage a failed credit card?
· How to welcome people to the Club?
· What happens at each stage of their membership?
· What is the induction process?
· How is their membership managed?
· Are there loyalty and referral programs?
· How do they work and how are they managed?
· What happens when they resign?
· What happens after they resign?

And we haven’t even begun to talk about the coaching process! How much automation should be given to each aspect of the business?

A map was created from the first contact through to the final goodbye. Even where automation was undertaken, emails had to be prewritten, which would be triggered by the process. Web pages needed to be created where there were to be links from the emails. And reporting had to be in place to monitor the whole process.

While a large number of procedures were automated, some manual processing was maintained where the programming was considered to be very complex and saving little time or where it was believed that the process would evolve.

Before you launch your business, map out the fundamental processes that must be there the day the doors open.

Next- Getting it all done.

Dr Greg Chapman is the Director of Empower Business Solutions and The Australian Business Coaching Club and is a Business Coach and provides Coaching and Consulting advice to Australian Small Business Owners in Marketing & Business Strategies Planning & Systems.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Speaking: it’s all in the mind

Most people who are afraid of public speaking talk about the way they feel they are being judged by the audience. They complain,

“They are all looking at me.”
Or they say,

“I go blank when I have to speak in front of people.”

Here are some thoughts about those thoughts. They are just that: THOUGHTS. And they are running you. If you want to be able to speak and not go blank, the most important thing you can do is talk to your mind. It has to give you permission to be out there in front of people.

And you do want them looking at you! How bad is it when you talk and they are not looking at you! Of course you need to speak clearly and slowly and to vary your voice and to look relaxed. All these things can be taught. However, until you tell your VOICE IN YOUR HEAD to go away and let you concentrate on what you are communicating to them, you won’t feel comfortable to get up.

Other tips like structure and humour and pauses and gestures, can all be taught as well. So, next time you have to speak, let your mind focus on what you are saying and your passion for the topic and you will be over half way there.

Judith Field is Literacy Coordinator for the state of Victoria (secondary) and teaches public speaking to individuals, groups and organizations.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Golden Rules of Websites - Rule 5 in a series

By Ron Stark

Imagine you have a restaurant and you need a new chef. Will you employ an electrician because you have an electric stove, or will you employ somebody who knows about food and what makes your customers come back for more? Websites are a bit like that, too. They're no more about computers than a phone call is about electronics or holiday flight overseas is about aeronautical engineering.

If you concentrate on your business needs, your website design almost happens by itself. Concentrate on your customer needs, and your website will work for your business. Concentrate on website development, and your business and your customers take a back seat - which is not where they're supposed to be!

So how do you identify the website provider you need to avoid? That's one who talks about site architecture, layout, computers, server space, hosting, download limits and so on. It's the one who talks about the technology they'll use to build the site. In other words, avoid the developer who talks about all those things that have nothing to do with your business needs or your customers' needs.

Also avoid the developer who tries to get you to sign off on a final design before they start - that simply sets the scene to charge you for design changes. The reality is that you often recognise better ways of laying out a website, and breaking up content, while you're building it. That's the very nature of the beast. You need the freedom to allow your website to seamlessly and freely evolve during construction - and, of course, afterwards .

So how do you select the right website provider? That's the one that learns about your business, your customers, your market and your objectives. It's the one who asks how your business will evolve and grow, so that your website can easily accommodate those changes. It's the one that also understands marketing and how visitors to your website think and behave.

Golden Rule 5
Just because somebody understands computers and can also build websites, that is a poor reason to engage them to build your website.

This is the fifth article in a series that exposes the many, yet frequently overlooked fundamental business principles that successful websites should follow. The author Ron Stark is the founder of Snapsite, who make the effort to first understand your business.

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