Networking as a game

I used to be better at networking in college. Don’t know why. I suspect mostly it was that I didn’t have any agenda and it was fun to meet people—no pressure, no fear of failure, only action. And when you run an organization as a student, you can email anyone and ask them to come and make a presentation. If someone says no or the price is too high, you can ask someone else. I got Elon Musk to come to UI back in 2005. I didn’t even watch his presentation. I sent in the other students helping run the conference and covered the registration table while they watched. The payoff was in the doing, not the receiving. It was fun to set it up and let it run.

So much for all that. Networking doesn’t feel easy or fun now, perhaps because now I want the payoff. I feel like I need the payoff. That extra do-or-die pressure stifles the drive to even start networking and meeting people, never mind the execution.

I was considering that today and I thought: why not make it a game?

Indeed. Why not? Get past the stuckness and worrying by aiming at something else that accomplishes that same goal. It wouldn’t really be a game, like a fun thing to play, but just a scorecard—do this, get some points; receive that, get some points; aim for a goal or high score every week. Get back to focusing on action instead of payoff.

What would the scoring parameters look like? What would the actions be? For a first cut, using easy to enumerate parameters, maybe…

  1. LinkedIn profile visits
  2. LinkedIn connection count
  3. LinkedIn post interactions
  4. Internal network connection count
  5. Internal network post interactions
  6. Outgoing professional contacts
  7. In person meetings
    1. What actions would get you there?

      1. LinkedIn profile visits –> Visit LinkedIn profiles (reciprocal visits); Post interactions (like, comment); Post in groups
      2. LinkedIn connection count –> Add more meaningful contacts (reciprocal adds)
      3. LinkedIn post interactions –> More meaningful posts
      4. Internal network connection count –> Add contacts (reciprocal adds); Post interactions (like, comment); Post in groups
      5. Internal network post interactions –> More meaningful posts
      6. Outgoing professional contacts –> Collect potential connections; Send emails
      7. In person meetings –> Send requests; Go to events

      Part of it is a game where you get points for an accomplishment, and part of it is an experiment: make a hypothesis about what you think will increase the score, design and perform a test, see how it affects the score. Observe the results, and roll it again.

      It feels a little pathetic to approach it like this, but what the hell? If it works, it works. I’ll work on a version in my favorite prototyping tool, Excel (don’t judge).

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