Generating ideas, connections, and action

Book Review: The Start Up of You

Job security is a thing of the past; to survive and thrive in today’s world we need to learn how to become entrepreneurs of our own lives. I’m acutely aware of this as I watch my young adult daughters and their friends navigate the start of their careers.  In a recent book, The Start Up of You, Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha provide insightful and valuable advice about building personal and professional networks, and why they are so important to our survival and success now and in the future.  We know that personal and professional networks are the best way to find a job, but how do we get value from our networks on a day-to-day basis?  How do we cultivate our networks so that we can easily tap the intelligence that is there to get insights about people we interact with, learn how to navigate power dynamics and cultural norms, or get emotional support and strength to keep us going?  On a personal level, I found their advice very affirming and empowering, and I vowed to give my daughters this book to read.
Here are some of the key take-aways for me about networks from reading this book, specifically how to make the most of them, how to strengthen and nurture them, and how to tap their intelligence.

How do we make the most of our networks?

  • Be curious and see the world from the perspective of others

  • Think first about what you can do to benefit others, not what you will get in return

  • Trust that you will get help in return

  • Search for shared interests, ask questions, forge common ground (figuring out what’s in the relationshp for us)

  • Engage in reciprocity;

  • Have fun and play - this is how friendship and innovation starts

  • Engage new people through those you already know

  • Find professional allies (people you can brainstorm with, trust proactively, get feedback from, review goals and plans with)

  • Maintain weak ties with people you get good ideas or information from (email occasionally, ask a favor of from time to time)


How do you strengthen and maintain your networks?

  • Feed, nurture and care about your relationships (jump-start the long-term process of give-and-take)

  • Do something for another person to help (give them a gift)

  • Let yourself be helped (let someone do you a favor)

  • Express gratitude

  • Be a bridge (introduce friends and allies to people and experiences they would not be able to access otherwise)

  • Stay in touch with people you care about and value

  • Consciously let fade those relationships you value less


How to tap into the intelligence of your networks (access the information you need when you need it)?

  • Ask good questions to individuals in your network (domain experts, people who know you well, smart people)

  • Court serendipity (engage people about what they find interesting and awesome)

  • Synthesize information into actionable intelligence (reconcile contradictory advice and information, ignore information that is off base, weigh each person’s information)

  • Test out ideas, directions, and decisions

This book is well-worth reading. It gives great examples of people and companies you know and the pathways they took to success, with a lot of discussion about the failures, uncertainties and self-doubts along the way.