The “Kevin Bacon” Game

Kevin Bacon is a popular American actor. The idea behind the Kevin Bacon game is to link any actor or actress to Kevin Bacon through the movies they’ve been in.

For example: Mary Pickford was in “Screen Snapshots” with Clark Gable, who was in “Combat America” with Tony Romano who, 35 years later, was in “Starting Over” with Kevin Bacon. Three Steps.

In the 1990s, computer scientist Brett Tjaden determined that Kevin Bacon was on average 2.8312 steps from any actor or actress, which placed him 668th of all actors and actresses. Then he determined the overall connectivity of a host of other actors and actresses. Among the top 50 were names such as Martin Sheen, Robert Mitchum, Gene Hackman, Donald Sutherland, Rod Steiger, and Shelly Winters.

Duncan Watts and Steven Strogatz further attempted to determine why actor Burgess Meredith, who appeared in 114 films, ranked in the top 20 when Gary Cooper, with a similar number of films, ranked 878th, and John Wayne, with 183 films to his credit, only ranked 160th.

They concluded that while Gary Cooper and John Wayne appeared in a significantly greater number of movies, the movies were of a similar type. In fact, over 50% of John Wayne’s movies were westerns.

Burgess Meredith, on the other hand, appeared in fewer but a greater variety of films: 42 dramas, 22 comedies, 8 adventures, as well as action, documentary, science fiction, horror, western, thrillers, crime, children, romance, mysteries, and even a musical and one animated film.

What can you take away from the Kevin Bacon game? If your network looks like Burgess Meredith’s career, with lots of variety and diversity, you’re probably doing great! But if your network resembles John Wayne’s career – lots of connections but from relatively few sources – you need to diversify.

To explore the real potential of your network, you need to live in lots of worlds – work, church, PTA, youth sports, trade association outside your profession, etc.

Network Pyramid Capstones

In the 1960s, Harvard social psychologist Stanley Milgram studied what he termed the “small world” problem. He wanted to better understand how people were connected to one another.

So, he sent to 160 randomly selected people in Omaha, NE a packet with the name and address of a stockbroker from Boston. He instructed each individual to write their name on the roster in the packet, then mail it to someone they thought would get it closer to the stockbroker.Diagram

On average the packets reached the broker in six steps (thus the phrase “six degrees of separation”). Milgram initially reasoned that if the packets started from 160 random points, they would arrive at their destination with similar randomness. Many of the packets, however, followed the same asymmetrical pattern. Half of the responses that got to the stockbroker were delivered by three people. So, the phrase “six degrees of separation” doesn’t mean that everyone is linked to everyone else in just six steps. It means that a very small number of people are linked to everyone else in a few steps, and the rest of us are linked to the world through those few.

Try this. Write down the names of 40 friends and trace them back to how they were introduced to you. This will reveal that what people term as their “social circles” are really inverted pyramids. A large percentage of your contacts likely originated from relatively few individuals – your Network Pyramid Capstones.

Consider this – to “jump start” your network or determine where your time is best spent, find your Network Pyramid Capstones. Then reconnect with each over lunch, coffee, or whatever.

Make an effort to develop a great relationship with these people – find ways to help them and be sure they understand how they can help you. These individuals have been instrumental in building your network to this point and will likely do so in the future.

Networking Is Nothing New

Networking is simply human interaction and it has been with us since the beginning of time. These human interactions are really just the relationships we have with one another. How we connect. Some connections are passing. Some connections are more lasting. Some connections are seemingly lifelong.

Given this, networking is, more or less, really just human behavior. Talking. Listening. Understanding. Being empathetic, encouraging, inspiring, smiling, laughing, and being a friend. Thus, all human behaviors involving other people are relationship-based and is networking.

The wonderful thing about human behavior is that there are patterns to it. While the patterns may not be perfectly predictable – as you might find with a chemical reaction or a physics experiment – there are patterns generally there.

Whenever there are patterns, however, there is curiosity. And whenever there is curiosity, you will find people of science trying to explain the patterns through studying, observing, and examining them.

Human behavior involving our relationships is no different. The social sciences – sociology, psychology, and economics, just to name a few – for years have examined how humans relate to one another, both personally and professionally.

30-Second Commercial Part 8 of 8

If you think about it, considering all these different options and orders, there are literally dozens (if not hundreds) of different 30-second commercials for you. So, do not stop at just one. Rather, select a handful of the ones that you feel are the most powerful for you and where you are the most comfortable saying them. Go with these.

Like anything, however, you will not get good at delivering your 30-second commercials without preparation, planning and practice.

Write Them: Using something as basic as a small note pad or 3×5 cards, neatly write or type your commercials for future reference.

Review Them: Once you have them written out, keep them handy so that you can practice or review them from time to time (just a few minutes each week is plenty).

Use Them: When someone then asks, “Who are you?”, do not hesitate. Have the courage to launch into one of your 30-second commercials (picking the appropriate one for the time and place).

Refine Them: Your 30-second commercials are always a work in process. You should look for ways to update them to make them more clear or better represent you.

30-Second Commercial Part 7 of 8

An effective 30-second commercial is good, but having more than one is better. You have a lot to offer and it won’t all fit in one commercial.

No two people are the same and no two situations are the same. Thus, it only stands to reason that you have different messages to fit different situations and people.

Plus, if you consistently say the same thing, it eventually becomes “white noise.” Don’t fall into the “one size fits all” trap. Consider the following:

  1. Develop a variety of Message Bodies – some informative or educational, others flippant or amusing, still others something with a little shock value (where you really want to grab some attention quickly).
  2. Vary the reason WHY people should refer you. What information about you or your company will instill confidence and boost your credibility? What makes you uniquely qualified or sets you apart?
  3. Vary the request. In some setting you can outright ask for people to refer you clients. In others, ask for a connection to a strategic partner (an accountant or attorney, perhaps). Or maybe you need to ask for information (such as details on networking events, job transition groups or background on people).

To summarize, make your 30-second commercials effective by having different MESSAGE BODIES, relying on different things to establish CONFIDENCE, and altering the REQUEST.

The order in which you present this information can vary. The above framework is a suggested guide. It is not an ironclad rule of thumb. Lead with something to inspire CONFIDENCE or, perhaps, your strong definite REQUEST, or even an amusing MESSAGE BODY.

It does not matter how you slice or dice the framework. The key is conveying the message with all the bits and pieces in about 30 seconds.