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Acceptance, Striving and [In[ter]]dependence

Bizlove is the Killer App

I first discovered Tim Sanders, author of the book "Love is the Killer App: How to Win Business and Influence Friends", through an article by Glen Ramsbrg on a talk Tim gave at a recent PCMA conference on "Digital Now: Association Leadership in a Digital Age".  The article highlighted the themes of knowledge, networking and compassion, and the title of Tim's book reminded me of one of my all time favorite books, "Love is Letting Go of Fear" by Jerry Jampolsky (and, in fact, there is much alignment between the two books). 

The Big Thought of the book is what Tim calls "the lovecat way": sharing your knowledge, your network and your compassion freely with all of your bizpartners.  Tim goes on to share his knowledge about how to be a lovecat, and includes many references to well-known people in his network as well of examples of how he and others have shared compassion in various bizcontexts.  What I liked best about the book was the way Tim motivated the lovecat approach, the general and specific techniques that he shared, and the examples of lovecats in action.  What I liked least about the book was an ambivalence I perceived with respect to whether love is a means or an end; to me, it is always an end (if it's a means, it's not really love), but given that Tim is [also] preaching to the uninitiated / unconverted, it may be that highlighting other benefits (ends) that can be realized through bizlove will help make the concept (and practice) more broadly appealing. 

[A final note before delving into the lovecat way: the book included numerous examples of what I would call bizwords ... a variation of buzzwords that I initially found rather distracting, but as I write this review, I do see that they are rather contagious ... and I think my recent discovery of the Biznik professional networking group ("an urban tribe for business, a supportive business network that encourages creativity, radical thinking, and community" ... whose co-founder, Dan McComb, was kind enough to post an interview with me) may be helping me warm up to the bizlingua.]

The book starts with the definition of love from Milton Mayeroff's book "On Caring" -- "Love is the selfless promotion of the growth of another" -- and then applies this definition to business -- "the act of intelligently and sensibly sharing your intangibles [your knowledge, network and compassion] with your bizpartners".  The last organization I worked for had a nearly exclusive focus on tangibles (and an explicit core value of paranoia, a manifestation of bizfear, which I see as the opposite of bizlove); I admit to feeling somewhat vindicated by the high valuation of intangibles presented in the book, although I also recognize that evaluating intangibles in the context of a large business is challenging.  [Update, 2-Jan-2006: I picked up a copy of Business Week at O'Hare yesterday that had some very interesting, relevant and (in my mind) related articles on both big changes at Intel and The Struggle to Measure Performance.]

The first element in becoming a lovecat is acquiring knowledge, and Tim argues that the best way to do this is via reading [hardcover] books, and following a four-step process of aggregation (determining which books to read, and acquiring them), encoding (tagging via underlining or highlighting, "cliffing" or making notes about the Big Thoughts and Big Statements), processing (writing a review, and/or discussing the book with others) and application (identifying appropriate contexts and seizing opportunities to share the knowledge from the book).  I'm an irrepressible tagger and cliffer, and while I used to write one-page summaries research papers when I was in graduate school, I'd abandoned the practice.  I decided to resume this practice of written summarization ... and post it here on my weblog, in case it's of any value to anyone else.

Networking is the second essential attribute of the lovecat way.  Tim offers a three step strategy for effective networking, consisting of collecting the right people for your network (though he notes that "every person is potentially relevant to you and your network"), connecting those people in your network who have complementary needs and solutions to offer (and doing so fast and with active engagement), then disappearing as soon as the connection is fused so that the relationship can develop on its own (and forget about finder's fees or any notion of a balance sheet -- trust that rewards will happen: "People hold you in the highest esteem when they realize you have no expectations that you will receive anything in return for what you are willing to give", a perspective that is very much aligned with the law of karma and Guy Kawasaki's prescription to be a mensch).

Compassion, or caring as much for the success of your bizmates and bizcontacts as for your own success, is the third element of being a lovecat.  Tim reminds me of Don Miguel Ruiz' first of four agreements ("be impeccable with your word") in observing that "there is a tremendous opportunity for your compassion to make a difference in how people view you, and how they view themselves."  While I am all in favor of compassion -- in and out of business -- this was the section of the book I had the most difficulty with.  In several places, Tim professes a utilitarian perspective on compassion, suggesting that one use compassion as a tool to achieve business success, as a means rather than an end.  He refers to being compassionate so "people will like us back", because "it's good for business", to be "most worthy of promotion".  He later says "This bizlove gig is not an act ... never fake it", but this is because "It's bad for the bizlove brand."  So I come away being unsure about his motivations for being a lovecat (and for encouraging others to follow the lovecat way).

However, I always take what I like and leave the rest, and this section had some real gems about sensing and expressing compassion that apply very nicely to the kind of experiences Interrelativity is trying to facilitate via proactive displays (large displays that show elements of people's online profiles when they are nearby, offering opportunities for awareness and interaction with others in their midst):

  • "Someone approaches you and you perceive, through conversation or body language [or something that appears on a nearby proactive display], possibilities that might allow you to bond, or a spark that causes you to feel an immediate affinity for this person ... these moments ... are few and far between."
  • "Most business conversations are transactional.  But when people stray off-subject [say, because of something they see on a nearby proactive display], their force field temporarily comes down and doesn't go back up again until they return to the business at hand."
  • "Business offers us constant contact with other people, but how often do we have a chance to show some compassion during that contact?  Most of these encounters are fast - fleeting emails, quick phone calls, chance meetings in hallways.  But on those occasions when you have the opportunity to show compassion, do so.  It doesn't happen very often.  True long-term relationships often start with what look like small opportunities."

As I noted in my last post, I believe there is a huge social cost to missed opportunities for connection; after reviewing my tags and cliffs in "Love is the Killer App", I would now broaden this to include a huge business cost in missed opportunities, and hope that through lovecat strategies (and technologies), we can make some of these opportunities easier to identify and act upon.

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