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Introduction: Impetus for the Post

This past Tuesday, as the uproar over SOPA and PIPA reached a crescendo with Wikipedia and many other sites shutting down in protest I was able to participate at The Greenhouse Innovation Hub’s discussion on the two anti-piracy bills. As an attorney who deals with IP issue, focuses on social media marketing, and has worked with legislators as a committee clerk, I felt like it was the perfect storm for me to bring my perspective to the table.

A year ago, I would not have been able to tell you what the heck was going on or why I was participating in so many different activities and interests, other than that I wanted to be a part of something and work on things that fascinated me.  Now, after the 2011 Leadership Institute is pau, can I say that I think was attempting to “manage my network.”

Dr. Tanya Menon of Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management came and gave a special presentation to Leadership fellows this past November. Her topic was discussing the research behind “managing diverse networks” and why it leads to successful leaders and relationships. Her research focuses on “how national culture affects people’s everyday assumptions and their patterns of decision making.” To say the least it was very fascinating, and I gained so much in an hour that I have wanted to do this post for a long while, but have not had the time to sit down and type it. So with the New Year passed, my resolution was to get this topic out in January at the very least. In addition, as this might take 2-3 posts to wrap-up I want to plant the seed in your mind that I am planning something for my Leadership Institute project (which all fellows have to choose and then execute after the class is over).  Let’s just my project does not just involve attorneys, but hopefully other leaders in Hawaii. So let’s get to what Dr. Menon shared!

What is “Luck” and What is a Good Network?

If you remember my earlier post on Corporate Hawaii, you will recall that Colbert Matsumoto basically said create the opportunities for lightning to strike. Well, Professor Menon basically agreed. She herself said she did not believe in luck, and that it is chance and probabilities. Why?

She argued that successful people build networks that allow them to know what is important, when, and to whom. This people infrastructure forms the basis of situations that look like luck to outsiders. To understand this we need to explore what is a good network. In turn, we need to play that Kevin Bacon game based on John Guare’s Six Degrees of Separation.

So here’s the question, if you were playing the game, who would you pick to get to have the least amount of degrees to Kevin Bacon, John Wayne or Burgess Meredith?

Generally, most people’s reaction is to automatically pick John Wayne due to name recognition. The reality is Burgess Meredith is the correct answer, why? It has to do with this notion of creating weak, indirect, but diverse networks versus forming a clique, which is strong, direct, and redundant. Burgess did many films, tvs, and even commercials whereas John Wayne was only known for a certain genre of movies. Therefore, while John is well-known is reach beyond his world is limited, whereas diversity gives Burgess more reach.

The Why: Redundant vs. Diverse

I know what you are thinking, but John Wayne is more well-known, so how is Burgess successful? That is only one-part of the equation, remember I said it would demonstrate what is a good network. A clique, forms a kind of feedback loop, where a person in the clique is only seeing the same people and gaining very little new knowledge due to limited input. Whereas a network with structural holes, that is it is weak, indirect, and diverse presents what? Opportunities. It is basically the knowledge-gap at work or the “strength of weak ties” (or diversity).

The key is to brokering the holes in the web, among disparate groups, which gives people who can manage diverse networks the ability to profit because a) you can control/broker the flow of knowledge and b) have access to diverse, unique information.

In addition, I think this Wired article largely echoes what Dr. Menon was saying:

Opposites Don’t Attract (And That’s Bad News) | Wired Science | 

I am going to stop here for now, as this is a lot to take in, but I will use this interesting question for you to ponder that Dr. Menon asked us during the seminar:

Why is it that many CEOs and other top-level executives happen to also smoke? 

If you are fascinated with leadership and management studies I would urge you to “Subscribe” today because the follow-up posts to this will be interesting.

This is a follow-up to the previous Leadership post, where I shared all the insights that the morning panelists of Corporate Hawaii discussed with the fellows. The afternoon was did not have a moderated panel, but a speed dating type of deal between the following executives:

This was a much more free form and shorter meeting with these lawyers-turned-executives. So I will impart just a couple of ideas from them in no particular order, but feel free to incorporate into your own business or practice or thinking about it.

Darcy – stated that she does not have as much control over work and life, even though many attorneys feel that they have no control; she said life as an executive was busier with meetings; finally, she felt that business development was about cultivating relationships.

Bryan – stated that you should meet as many people as you can, in fact that is how he met Eddie Flores, at a political function. From that encounter, Eddie used him as an attorney, but through working for him they built trust and getting to know each other.

There, I think this highlights the whole going out and meeting new people aspect of networking.

Stanley – said he was ready for change, when he went into a nonlawyer position, but for beginning lawyers he recommends starting in government or if you are going to try and become in-house counsel promote yourself in business-relations, and that a JD-MBA helps. He also said that a lot of lawyers are good at IDing the issues and risk assessment, but the BEST lawyers give solutions and get it done proactively in fixing problems. Finally, he said that the skills a lawyer takes with them into business are: (1) good writing skills, BUT you need to change into business writing; and (2) think logically, to persuade/convince others.

Well, that’s it for Corporate Hawaii. Next post I will pose a question that was discussed at Corporate Hawaii, that I think will provoke conversation, so I welcome responses. In addition, I will talk about the special session on “Managing Diverse Networks” by Dr. Tanya Menon.

Happy Holidays!

I got a couple of responses of how interesting the Leadership Institute subject matter was last post, so I decided to impart some other interesting ideas and advice I have learned from my fellowship. So here goes.

I was born and raised on Oahu and it was only until college that I lived away for any significant portion of time away from “the Rock” as it is affectionately known.  However, growing up I quickly learned the odd ritual of asking the following three questions to people I would in Hawaii.  They are as follows, in order:

  1. What highschool did you go to?
  2. What year did you graduate?
  3. Do you know [insert name of person you know that might the person you are questioning]?

I never knew the subtleties of why I did it, but I knew it gave me some comfort and was always a good icebreaker for meeting new local people.  This even followed me as I updated my resume for after law school, as I intended to return home.  I remember the Career Services Office staff looked at me funny, and asked why would I put my highschool on my resume.  My only response is that it mattered when applying for jobs in Hawaii, and I kind of got the look of course it matters only in Hawaii because it is a odd state.  I left it that, and left my highschool on my resume.

Well, during one of the Leadership Institute seminars former Judge Thomas Kaulukukui Jr. explained to me why it is the case.  The basic gist of what I learned from Judge Kaulukukui is that you need to get to know people before you serve them as a leader.  How can you effect change if you have no idea about the people you are dealing with?  So it is in Hawaii, a pre-dominatly Pacific Islander/Asian culture, where we want to know who you are because it matters to us.

Now, this isn’t the “who you know” game where you spend time one-upping the other person.  No, it is the “who you know” as in what is your background (who are you and where do you come from).  Let me explain further using the ritualistic three highschool questions.

  • “What highschool did you go to?” represents the locality question, idenityfing where is the place that you come from and what was your environment.
  • “What year did you graduate?” represents the time component of what generation and what time did you come of age, as this shapes our identity and formation as an adult.
  • “Do you know [insert person that you know, that you think the other person may know]?” attempts to get to know your people, who is your group, who are your friends (your clan, so to speak).

Now, if this seems foreign to people of the continental United States it should be apparent to those who have European ancestry that in medieval times you identified your lineage.  Where do you think fantasy novels like Lord of the Rings and A Game of Thrones came up with “I am so-and-so, son of XYZ.”?  Before, you think I bring out my dorky readings for no reason, be aware that our legal system evolved from medieval England.  They used have trial by combat, all that has happened is we replaced the suits of armor with suits and ties, and the swords with word-filled motions.

So where does this leave us?  Remember I said that some of the judges from the Meet the Bench write-up felt be true to yourself, well that applies here.  Your personal background gives context and history and makes you an individual, so when you do business in Hawaii we care who you are.  It may seem to make doing deals longer, but it does mean we are focused on relationship building, which means longer lasting partnerships.

Also if you read through all this and are still wondering where I went to highschool and what year did I graduate, well here is the answers:

  • I went to Punahou, and I graduated with the class of 1999.
  • I will leave the last question to you if you ever meet me to ask do I know “so-and-so.”