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Not long ago, after I had delivered a speech on the new economy, a woman entering the job market approached me to talk about her career anxiety.
"I'm not worried that I won't land something good," she explained. "I'm afraid that work will be too cold and impersonal. What can I do to guarantee I'll be successful but also happy?"
The answer? The same advice I gave Chris: "Be a lovecat."
At a large sales conference last month, I met two men, one in accounting, the other in management; both of them were afraid. It wasn't that they feared the changes going on around them -- they feared being left out of them.
"How do I drill into this World Wide Web thing?" one of them asked. "I don't know what to work on because this isn't my skill set. Am I still relevant? Is there anything I have to offer that can add value?"
The other man said, "I don't think I can compete with these kids ßying out of schools loaded with their new-economy knowledge and jargon. Everyone else seems to be jumping into new roles, but I think the world is limiting me with all its rules and biases."
"That's not how the world is run," I replied. "It's run via intangibles -- knowledge, networks, and compassion."
It never seems to change. No matter how and where I meet these people, and no matter what their age or experience level, I have found one common truth: Men and women across the country are trying desperately to understand how to maintain their value as professionals in the face of rapidly changing times.
Until recently, bizpeople could survive for years without advice, without connection skills, perhaps even without new ideas. But now that the bizworld is moving at a velocity once unheard of, many of us can't keep up. We've made some bad decisions, we've received some bad advice, we didn't get connected to the right opportunities, we're feeling left behind or left out.
Technology has revolutionized our landscape. Before the information revolution, business changed gradually and business models became antiquated even more slowly. The value progression evolved over decades and double decades. You could go to college, get an M.B.A. and work for forty years, and your pure on-the-job knowledge stayed relevant. Relationships were for the most part geo-bound, and only a handful of people comprised your entire business network.
That was yesterday. Forget about today, because tomorrow is upon us. And to succeed in tomorrow's workplace, you need a killer application. (What's a killer app? There's no standard definition, but basically it's an excellent new idea that either supersedes an existing idea or establishes a new category in its field. It soon becomes so popular that it devastates the original business model.)
What is that application? Simply put: Love is the killer app. Those of us who use love as a point of differentiation in business will separate ourselves from our competitors just as world-class distance runners separate themselves from the rest of the pack trailing behind them.
This isn't just a feel-good message that I sense audiences want to hear. I believe that the most important new trend in business is the downfall of the barracudas, sharks, and piranhas, and the ascendancy of nice, smart people -- because they are what I call lovecats. They will succeed for all the reasons you will discover in this book.
But first, what do I mean by love?
The best general definition I have ever read is in the noted philosopher and writer Milton Mayeroff's 1972 book On Caring: "Love is the selßess promotion of the growth of the other." When you are able to help others grow to become the best people they can be, you are being loving -- and you, too, grow.
Mayeroff actually used the word caring more often than the word love, although love is interchangeable with such terms as caring, charity, and compassion. But because "Show me the love" has such a ring to it in a business context, love is the word I prefer to use.
Mayeroff, however, talked mostly about love in our personal lives. We need a different definition for love in our professional lives.
When we start a job, whether as recent graduate or CEO, we take on a contract to create more value than the dollar amount we are paid. If we don't add value to our employer, we are value losses; we are value vampires. My definition of added-value: The value with you inside a situation is greater than the value without you.
In your personal life, you can make decisions based on personal needs. If you wish to remain friendly with a toxic person, you have every right to do so. But business is not personal. Love in the bizworld is not some sacrificial process where we must all love one another come what may. There is no free love in the new economy. Every member of your team depends on each and every other member to contribute. You can't afford to take on people who will sink your value boat. So the definition of love must be modified to guarantee that it means not only you, but all the people who populate your bizworld, are value-added for that bizworld.
Here, then, is my definition of love business: the act of intelligently and sensibly sharing your intangibles with your bizpartners.
What are our intangibles? They are our knowledge, our network, and our compassion. These are the keys to true bizlove.
Who are our bizpartners? Potentially, they are each and every person in our work life, whether our bosses or bankers, our clients or competitors, the money guys with the cash to burn, the writers who spin it up so the stocks can churn.
In the following three chapters we will discuss each of the three intangibles in detail, but here they are in short form:
By knowledge, I mean everything you have learned and everything you continue to learn. Knowledge represents all you have picked up while doing your job, and all you have taught yourself by reading every moment you can find the time. It means every piece of relevant data and information you can accumulate. You can find knowledge almost anywhere -- through observation, experience, or conversation. But by far the easiest, most efficient way to obtain knowledge is through books.
Think of your brain as a kind of piggy bank. Smart people fill it up with all they learn until they possess a formidable wealth of knowledge. Then there are those who sit around all day and never put anything in their bank; all they accumulate is a large butt. You see these people every day, on planes, trains, and in lounges, staring off into space, downing cocktails, heading off to business meetings ill-prepared. Like kids who don't know how to put pennies in their banks, these adults don't know how to accumulate knowledge.
When I give a speech, I often tell my audience that if they feel I have anything valuable to say, they should consider this: My knowledge isn't inherent. I wasn't born with an IQ of 200. I haven't started a colossal business. I am not a rocket scientist. Six years ago my career path wasn't any more remarkable than anyone else's. Then I went on a reading tear. And the more I read, the more I went into business meetings and won people's hearts -- and their business, too.
So what I say to my audiences is: Don't let a guy like me get a step up on you. Maybe you've been in business for twenty-five years. Maybe you have stuff on your r?sum? I would die for. Yet you're stopping in the race to let me catch up. And it's all because I keep reading.
I can't tell you how often people ask me after a speech, "Could you give me your book list? I should have been doing this for the last thirty years."
Says Harry Beckwith in The Invisible Touch: "Instead of thinking about value-added, think about knowledge-added. What knowledge can you add to your service, or communicate about your service, that will make you more attractive to . . . business partners and customers?"
By network, I mean your entire web of relationships. In the twenty-first century, our success will be based on the people we know. Everyone in our address book is a potential partner for every person we meet. Everyone can ?t somewhere in our ever-expanding business universe.
Relationships are the nodes in our individual network that constitute the promise of our bizlife and serve as a predictor of our success. Some of the brightest new-economy luminaries, such as Kevin Kelly (New Rules for the New Economy), or Larry Downes and Chunka Mui (Unleashing the Killer App), argue that companies, organizations, and individuals comprise, and are most highly valued for, their web of relationships. If you organize and leverage your relationships as a network, you will generate long-lasting value (and peace of mind) beyond your stock options, mutual funds, and bank accounts. You will also create a value proposition for new contacts, which in turn drives membership in that network -- the prime law of business ecosystems, known as the Law of Network Effects. Value explodes with membership, and the value explosion sucks in more members, compounding the result. These famous wise words put it more succinctly: Them that's got, gets.
But not all of us know to go out and get. Try out this metaphor: When we are born, we receive a fishing net. Throughout our lives we troll for contacts -- while in school, at work, or through professional organizations and clubs. If we are fishing well, we accumulate a network of people who support us, who appreciate our value, who lead us to new opportunities. But not all of us use our net wisely. While some of us fill our nets with prizewinning fish, others let their nets languish and fall to the bottom of the ocean, stuffed only with the deadweight of old tires.
Those of us who end up with the best-stocked net have a most valuable commodity. When we are fully and totally networked, we are powerful. Alone, even with all the wisdom in the world, we are powerless: castaways adrift in an impersonal ocean. Without a network, knowledge is nearly useless. Knowledge is your power source or your battery, but relationship is your nerve center, your processor. You get value from your knowledge, but it becomes real when you share it with your network.
I believe that Silicon Valley's greatest innovation is not the invention of wowie-zowie hardware and software, but the social organization of its companies and, most important, the networked architecture of the region itself -- the complex web of former jobs, intimate colleagues, information leakage from one firm to the next, rapid company life cycles, and the agile e-mail culture.
Once, scarcity created value. Today abundance can create value. In the old days, when we traded tangibles such as gold, the less gold that was available, the higher its value. Supply-and-demand ruled. Now the opposite can be true. Abundance creates power. If you have a great idea for running a business, and it is adapted throughout your industry, your idea is more, not less, valuable. Value today derives from an idea that everyone has accepted, and then competition sets in to perfect the execution of that idea.
The more people in your network, the more powerful the network.
By compassion, I mean that personal quality that machines can never possess -- the human ability to reach out with warmth, whether through eye contact, physical touch, or words. The ability to show compassion is paramount to human happiness in any situation, whether at work or at home. You can't love a computer or a software program or even a book as you can love another person. Sometimes you just need a human.
The beauty of compassion is that every one of us already possesses it. We are born with our arms reaching out to embrace. Unlike knowledge and networks, which we build over time, we all can tell people how much we care about them. We can smile gently, and slap others on the back. We can hug, and we can listen quietly and, at a sad story's conclusion, say, "I truly feel for you."
At the office, our humanity can be defined as the ability to involve ourselves emotionally in the support of another person's growth. Whether we celebrate someone's accomplishments, or show true sympathy for someone's undoing, it's our warmth that separates us from the thinking machines.
How we are perceived as human beings is becoming increasingly important in the new economy. There was a time when people could sit back and play head games behind closed doors. There was a time when people who were unsympathetic, mean-spirited, or unkind could feel secure knowing little could be done about it. The new economy doesn't allow for this. There are two major reasons why.
The first is choice. Choice spells doom for villains. Let's say that, twenty-five years ago, you were working in an area where there was only one place to buy a great cup of coffee. The guy who served it was a coffee Nazi, but you had no option, so you went to his deli every day even though you hated him. Today, however, there may be a dozen coffee places within a stone's throw. Now if that man bothers you, you sample the competition's coffee, you find a substitute, you move on.
Likewise, twenty-five years ago, when you worked for a bad boss, you didn't have many tools with which to choose another job. There was the Sunday paper, your network of a few friends and family members, and that was about it. You stayed at that job longer than you wanted to because you truly believed you didn't have an alternative. Today, however, there are all kinds of new services that didn't exist in your parents' generation, aimed at helping you locate and change jobs. You don't have to put up with the same head games they did. A fresh start is a mouse click away. If your boss is smart, he or she is fully aware of this.
The second reason the new economy is inhospitable to noxious people is what I call the New Telegraph. In the Old West, communications technology in the form of telegraph wires changed the composition of commercial life. It taught merchants that they had to be decent. Before the telegraph, scamming someone wasn't difficult. My Granny Hattie, who was in her late eighties when I was a child, told me about an old relative of ours who used to sell some miracle cleanser that was basically an inexpensive soap solution packaged as a fancy cure-all. He did well simply by moving to the next county if anyone wised up to his gimmick. But he went out of business once the telegraph wires went up, because the word that he was a snake-oil salesman traveled faster than he could.
That same phenomenon has now gone global and real time. If someone rips you off, all kinds of great technology are available to let others know, from planetfeedback.com to just plain e-mail. A truly bad boss is his own worst viral marketer.
It doesn't matter what industry you're in -- you have more choices and more information at your disposal. So when you don't like certain people, it's easier than ever to escape them.
As the world becomes more competitive, we also compete for people's emotions. In business, to paraphrase National Basketball Association commissioner David Stern, it's not completely important what people think about you -- it is, however, totally important how they feel about you.
People are hungry for compassion. There's never enough of it. And the tougher the times are, the more important it becomes. If we dot.communists had a bible, it would preach that the network was created in the image of men and women. No matter how technical our work- stations may be, because we are all human, the network is at its best when compassion underlies our motivation.
From the Hardcover edition.