power shift from hording to sharing

At the Canada 3.0 conference, I met a headhunter.

He asked me how social media helps him

My first thought was “you’re in the networking business, how can you not get how social media helps”? But fortunately, i paused long enough to ask another question of him. “Do you use linkedIn?”, I asked.

“Yes, sort of ” he says, “but I’m afraid that people will see my contacts and steel them”.

Oh – fear. Now that’s something that I can understand and relate to.

So I asked him if he could see other people’s contacts. What if its sharing and not stealing? I asked him if that could make him the “go to” guy and if he’d see that as a good thing.

I started my spiel about information sharing replacing information hording as the new source of status and pride.

And then he asked the key question. The KEY.

He said – “Once I empty my little cup of knowledge for someone, what value do I have left?”

He nailed it. The source of Social Media fear.

I did my best on the spur of the moment to answer his question with sensitivity and wisdom (not sure how good my best was, but I tried), so here’s what I said, and perhaps a bit of what I should have.

Information has some value.

Insight has more value.

Capability even more.

The  ability to reliably  find any of the above is perhaps most valuable. So a headhunter should be near the top of the food chain. But he did not see it that way.

So – how can someone like my smart, but worried friend move forward in this world? He’s got 2 key things he needs to do.

1. Become more familiar with Social Media in a non-threatening way. Take little steps that don’t feel high risk. I recommended some a while ago.

2. Start to think of himself in new ways. If he was useful when he horded information, he can be more useful, more influential when he starts giving it away. Just ask google. When people know that you’re the one with the info, they go back, they listen, you get an audience.

My new friend is worth much more than his rolodex.

More critically the point here, if I failed to make it yet, is that information isn’t the treasure, its how you got it and what you’ll do with it, and Fear is the only thing keeping you from discovering your post information, insight-economy value.


  1. Good story about the unknown powers of social media. You don’t have to fear it. It can help you getting further. Together we can make our work better with the knowledge shared from ànd with others.
    Especially the second key is relevant. So, what you have in mind and you can help others with that info, share it and become a richer person, than you were.

  2. Great discussion, and one that really applies to all of us – even business. Key here is information, knowledge, and what we connect the value to.

    In this case the headhunter seems to feel he has a fixed set knowledge which he can keep mining for $$. Ironically the headhunter is selling himself short. Instead he should be selling his ability to identify, understand, and relate which is what allowed him to gather this info and future info. If a headhunter is simply a resume pusher – then he brings no value. But my experience has been those who bring value actually become part of the process helping with the candidate during negotiation. They also have strong contacts to find candidates who may not be obvious.

    Back to larger point. It is easy to get stuck in the easy road of thinking that our value is in the result of our work (i.e. the knowledge we gained) – when it should be about the ability to innovate. This happens with software companies who come out with an innovative product and wanty to milk it forever instead of continuing to innovate.

    One last point – the more I have been personally diving into these types of discussions I find it ironic how perceptions are somewhat altered by one’s position in the scenario. Folks who claim you should “share” can (and will) have a different tune when the tables are turned (again that fear settling in). Reality is this fear is something that faces us all even if we understand it so we must be on the lookout!

  3. Good points. I’d add one more. It isn’t a one way street whereby you empty your ‘cup’ as he described it. If you do it right, there should be a balancing inflow at least equal to what flows out.

    1. What’s in it for me, and what’s in it for you.
      That’s a balanced informationstream. But who starts pooring information. If you wait at eachother, than there streams no information. So begin with a little bit, make the other curious about a fact. The other replies and than flows information.
      I’m sorry, if the lines are not totally in good English textstyle written, but I’m trying als well as I can.

  4. Wow am I pleased to have the 3 of you commenting on my blog. I’ve found that the way to overcome other people’s fear (ie begin the 2-way street) is to show some of your cards, some of your vulnerabilities, and give some of what you have as a first step. This begins to build credibility and trust – the critical factors in real collaboration.

  5. One thing that occurs to me is that the flow of information does not have to be “full on” and complete. Sometimes the power of the social network is the sharing of the social connection, not necessarily the content. Exchange of contacts, facilitating a discussion, making introductions. Get to know Sam, who knows this person, who has something to say about that. It isn’t necessarily about publishing your rolodex or your list of world-changing ideas, it’s about motivating, inspiring and adding incremental value to other people’s lives (either professionally or individually). Starting slow and offering incremental value to others is less fearful and allows you to let your light shine on others in a way that is comfortable for everyone.

    Great post Deb.

  6. Taking a 60000ft view, disparity of information as all but disappeared thanks mainly to the internet, and in more recent times social networking. Some time ago, car sales people, estate agents even dentists could charge much more for their products and services as the disparity of information between them and the buyer was so great that the balance of power rested with the seller. The internet leveled the playing field: People could check out prices, specifications, maps and all the information that the seller once held dear can now be obtained within a few clicks and completely free. The last bastion of information disparity is left in recruitment, where hoarders of information still hold power. The internet in its 1.0 era couldn’t break this down, but social networking can. Whilst web 1.0 didn’t destroy car sales, or estate agency sales as these industries were able to adapt, web 2.0 I fear will significantly impact the number of recruitment agencies globally – as their market is too tight to adapt, and their product: Information, is becoming freely available online.

  7. In negotiation class, we were taught a classification scheme that emphasized the percentage of wins for each class of negotiators. Data horders, ubber geeks, tend to win their negotiations only 2% of the time.

    A person self selects their career based on their personality or disposition. It is their disposition that drives data horders into data hording careers. It is unlikely that you will meet them is a social setting. Maybe you’ll get some situational extroversion from them in an online social environment.

    It’s questionable to me that any broad sweeping generalizations can be made about participation and involvement with social media.

  8. The extroverts had the power before social media. The extoverts continue to hold power. There is no power shift.

    1. I think it is important to remember that social media has many different contexts. For me, many features of the social web provide a lower barrier of entry to a conversation for many different types of people.

      Sure, we tend to focus on prominent bloggers and other social web figureheads who may start threads of conversation but we mustn’t forget the massive opportunity and value it provides more introverted people, whether that engagement is through simply reading reviews or making a comment.

      The different ways of sharing appeal to different people. For instance, I’m not one to shorten URLs and pro-actively share knowledge through Tweets. However, I do proactively share lots of feed items through Google Reader. This is the level and type of broadcast that I’m comfortable with.

  9. Interesting point, David, but I’m not completely sure I agree. Its true that those with excellent social and networking skills have always had a big advantage, I think there’s more to social media than social skills. A lot more. COllaboration isn’t about social skills, and social networking tools have mainstreamed the skills, concepts and techniques of social networking to the point that even social skill free folks like myself can do it

  10. This is a great observation. I recently had a mirror image conversation with my German teacher who, as an older member of society, wants to embrace the web to broaden his funnel for income. However, he too is challenged with letting knowledge go freely.

    I discussed this topic with him for some time and he then realised that the modern web provides a shop window for him to advertise his profile and specifically his expertise in a given subject. In his current way of working, there is no such opportunity as this cannot be conveyed in local adverts or a simple website.

    This obviously comes at a cost as you correctly point out. He must choose to give some pearls of wisdom away in order to raise that profile. I recall that I appealed to his eccentric side that he should challenge himself to become a minor celebrity in his field of knowledge online.

    He has agreed to embrace it, and I have chosen to help him… in exchange for free lessons of course.

    1. Hi Danny – thanks for stopping by. You’re right in observing that you can choose to use the technology as you choose to use it, and that means different things to different people. I think the key point here is to understand that giving info away creates and demonstrates value, in a way that keeping it does not. How much you give and why, is always your decision, but understanding that there is an effect is important – we need to think of ourselves a little differently.

      1. The impact of social media increases directly with the relative ‘influence’ of the participant. In our research and modeling on the effect of ‘influencers’ in markets validates the concepts surrounding the fact that people will go to ‘trusted sources’ or ‘influencers’ to check out products and/or services rather than relying on manufacturer or distributor marketing campaigns.

        Social Media value is in sharing of information rather than hoarding, and sharing ‘value’ is directly related to the perceived ‘knowledge’ of the participants – in other words the market or social influencers. In is important to recognize that influence is not related to position within the community or business, but to the significant and measurable impact that certain people have on markets or communities.

  11. Challenge: our economic model doesn’t yet support “capability” sufficiently or clearly enough to alleviate fear… LinkedIn helps people connect, but when a connection results in a new job, they certainly don’t collect a recruiter-sized fee!

    I think the idea of moving from information to capability is spot on, and that the process will be messy for some time… partly b/c of fear, but also partly b/c changing the economics of an industry creates real difficulties for real people. If I can’t pay my mortgage by providing info, then I need to develop a new expertise in a hurry! The combined impact of fear + pace/scope of changes implied here is ginormous.

    1. Jason – this is a very good point, but I think the genie is out of the bottle. The old way is gone, the new way is chaotically arriving. I try to focus on being valuable. The more I can demonstrate my value, the more people will come to me for more. At the organizational level, its more complex – when the transactions involve money, but I think the issue is still generally the same. You’re right. The implications are huge and it won’t all be tidy.

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