There are probably two key numbers that are referred to in Personal Networking – they are 6 and 150. Six being from “Six Degrees of Separation” – the idea that everyone is at most six steps away from any other person on Earth. One Hundred and Fifty coming from Robin Dunbar, the British Anthropologist who created the theory that the limit to the number of people with whom one can maintain stable social relationships is 150 (Dunbar’s Number).

I’ve absolutely no problem with Dunbar’s work – and you will have seen in previous posts that I reference it a lot. However, I’ve always struggled with the “Six Degrees of Separation” bit. It’s not that I disagree with the theory – but I cannot see how it is usefully applied to a Personal Network. Maybe I am being unambitious – but do I really want to make those 6 hops to meet Barack Obama or the Queen?

There was a good article by Michael Southon in the FT Weekend “Networking is all about quality”. It’s well worth a full read – and his sign off pointed me in the right direction:-

So my advice for all business people, whether they are expert networkers or more naturally reserved, is to go through your online address books, identify the 150 people you like most, and make some quality time for them.

The mathematics is on your side. They also have 150 people they like and trust, which makes a total of 22,500 people in your close circle, or one degree separated. Whatever you do for a living, this is easily enough potential business for you and your company.

Mike hit the nail on the head. There might be Six Degrees of Separation – but it’s the first level (where the trust is focussed) that you should put your energy into. This creates a magical (and believable) number of 22,500 people you could make a realistic connection with. Eureka!!

Now I understand why I get uncomfortable when LinkedIn tells me that my 194 Connections link you to 3,860,237+ professionals!! Unbelievable!!

Personal Networking is about building a community around you that has integrity, trust and generosity – and if each of those “connections” has a similar community … then a realistic group of 22,500 people can be your Personal Network. I’m comfortable with that….. Thank you, Mike.