Who do you surround yourself by?


I’m sitting on the edge of Lake Michigan watching the sunrise. For those of you who know me, you would know that I probably don’t see the sunrise very often, but the time difference is messing with my sleep patterns.

Yesterday, I started a scholarship at Kellogg Business School, part of the North Western University in Chicago, thanks to the UK government’s trade and industry group. We had our first session on “Networking”, which at first, I thought I was going to be given a glass of fizzy wine and asked to awkwardly mingle with my fellow students. After realising it was four hours long, I assumed I would be going to a LinkedIn masterclass, the likes of which I see in my spam email folder regularly. My expectations weren’t very high.

As soon as Professor Brian Uzzi started talking, I knew the class was going to be special. He drew on history as a case study to persuade us that we need a network of diverse influencers, warning of the dangers of surrounding yourself with like minded agreeable people (“The Joy of Spontaneous Agreement”). He had so much useful advice: “Your network is the way you transcend your own limitations”.

He talked about the Six Degrees of Separation concept. As a statistician, this stimulated the mathematical side of my brain. I did a quick calculation. Humans only need to know 44 other humans for this to be true. Given that the median number of Facebook friends is around 200, then I’m feeling quite persuaded.

The session culminated in all the students being asked to write down one wish. The wishes were noted, along with a monetary value, and how long each individual had held the desire for. Using the network in the room (admittedly a well connected bunch of entrepreneurs), every single wish had another person in the room who could help make it come true.

This was a truly inspirational session, where I learned an incredible amount. Many ideas and plans have popped into my head. I feel honoured to be inspired by Proffesor Uzzi but also really excited about the test of the scholarship. Many thanks to the organisers and UKTI for asking me to join.


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