Chicago Cultural Affairs Commissioner, Lois Weisberg, will be retiring this year. Itâ€™s interesting that she is leaving just as we are revisiting the human phenomenon that 12 years ago became an international notoriety when Malcolm Gladwell showcased her in his groundbreaking New Yorker article, â€œ6 Degrees of Lois Weisberg.â€ Our book, Networlding 4.0: The Great Exchange, shares Lois’s powerful talent for connecting AND creating opportunities. In the following excerpt from our book, we reveal more as to how she connects in valuable,mutually beneficial ways and how you can do the same thing, starting today, with your network.
Lois, as her friends know her, was said by Gladwell to be one of the most influential people on earth because she understood the power of our networked world well before Facebook, Twitter or any other social media platform popularized it. Weisberg, 85, is the only remaining member of May Richard M. Daileyâ€™s original cabinet.
Some of Loisâ€™s contributions to the city included innovative ideas like the famous Cows on Parade public art project in 1999. This idea was spread around the world and duplicated by cities taking on their own unique themes. She also worked with Maggie Daley to create the successful Gallery 37 and After School Matters programs focused on the arts.
For 22 years Lois has been supporting the arts in Chicago. She has done it with a passion focused on a vision of what could be for the city as well as the talented people who would make your visions turn into realities.
As Gladwell illuminated in his article in January of 1999, â€œThere are probably Lois Weisbergs in Akron and Tucson and Paris and in some little town in the Yukon Territory, up by the Arctic Circle. We’ve all met someone like Lois Weisberg. Yet, although we all know a Lois Weisberg type, we don’t know much about the Lois Weisberg type.â€ From here, Gladwell began to make more â€œexplicitâ€ the infrastructures built from the minds and hearts of people like Lois.
To do this Gladwell, a social scientist, directs our attention to the experiments of Stanley Milgram of the famous Six Degrees Experiment. Gladwell said perhaps it should be referred to as â€œThe Lois Weisberg Problem.â€ I have been sharing that experiment with audiences for years and, each time, I would note how many were not familiar with it, even after â€œThe Tipping Pointâ€ was a bestseller. The experiment began in Omaha, Nebraska, where a hundred and sixty people were randomly selected and given a packet of postcards to mail to a randomly selected stockbrocker in Boston.
When, surprisingly, postcards from the packets were received by the stockbroker within five to six mailings, the â€œsmall world conceptâ€ or â€œsix degrees of separationâ€ was born. But Gladwell went even deeper into this phenomenon, explaining that an equally important part of the experiment created by Milgram was the realization that the majority of the packets were delivered to the final recipient by the same three people. What this revealed was that there are certain people who are better â€œconnectorsâ€ to diverse individuals than others and that illumination was well evidenced in Lois Weisberg.
Gladwell went on in the article to explain that Lois has a powerful pyramid of pyramids of connections. In other words, Lois is connected to â€œConnectors.â€ That awareness that started with this article now plays out perfectly on the site LinkedIn.
Here, you can see, right under the heading â€œContactâ€ you can click on â€œNetwork Statistics.â€ From here you can see your first degree, second and third degree connection numbers. So, for example, Melissa has 5000 connections. Melissaâ€™s connections are made up of eight years of connecting with top networkers on LinkedIn. Therefore it is not surprising that her second degree connections exceed two million and her third degree, fifteen million. She is connected, like Lois Weisberg, to connectors.
So, bringing this into the real world, how can you build a similar network? Follow this mantra: care, connect, promote. Itâ€™s Melissaâ€™s mantra and if you can adapt it to your world you will be on the path to success. You donâ€™t need 5000 connections to get there. Just start with five or ten and keep going. You will get there faster than you realize!