In reflecting on these questions, I remembered something that Mr. Itzkowich said. In a loose paraphrase - you can't get anything from your network until after you start giving to your network. This seems to me to be a cogent philosophical and psychological point. Philosophically, a connection can't exist until the relationship exists. Psychologically, humans are more likely to contribute their resources to people who are in their social group than to people who are not.
The social aspect of a network requires some sort of social connection. This presents a complication which I can best demonstrate with a 'picture' of my network. [Thanks to LinkedIn Labs]
Which explains the initial dilemma: How can a network function when the defining social connection is a person?
I don't know the answer to this question - Yet.
So where to start? Coming back to the beginning, I think the place to start is with our philosophical/psychological point. You have to give to your network before it will give back to you.
A good guiding principle, but a bit too vague for execution. Let's translate it into two direct courses of action:
- Identify each person in my network in terms of our initial connection (i.e. determine why we came to be connected in the first place).
- Reach out to every person in my network in order to start defining what our future (functional) connection will become.