We live in a sea of information, drowning in data, seeking some way to make sense of the firehose of information streaming at us day and night. I’ve always been fascinated with data visualization, hoping to find hidden patterns that will help make sense of my world. I’ve just discovered a new visualization tool. This article describes how to visualize your LinkedIn network and analyze it for insight. The capabilities are currently limited, but hint at much more to come.
My LinkedIn network map is shown at right. My network is composed of three distinct populations on top of nebulous background web of additional connections. The large blue cloud is my current employer while the orange population represents my associations in the academic research world where I worked previously. The green offshoot at bottom represents my current Toastmasters connections.
Note how my three main networks have very little connection with each other. For example, few of my current employee colleagues are members of Toastmasters and few of my academic researcher connections have ties with my current employer. The three populations are essentially orthogonal to each other, sampling three different worlds with little connection between themselves.
This is a good thing. According to Reid Hoffman (cofounder of LinkedIn) and Ben Casnocha in their book The Startup of You: Adapt to the Future, Invest in Yourself, and Transform Your Career the strength of your network is its breadth and diversity. Think of it this way. If all your connections share the same interests, then they will all have access to the same information. And they are all missing out on new information in exactly the same way. Which would you rather have, twenty-five people alerting you to one opportunity or twenty-five people alerting you to twenty-five opportunities?
Having seen what my network looks like, I find myself deliberating looking for more orthogonal connections, that is, more people that can take me places I’ve not yet been.
Where the opportunities are.