Making Social More Human

We are both pretty passionate about networking.  Being insatiably curious, we love meeting new people from different backgrounds with different experiences, viewpoints, and stories.  Throughout our individual careers, we’ve seen how networking is a means of learning and growing, both personally and professionally.  There is a plethora of articles, books, and blog posts about the need for and benefit of networking.  They talk about the benefit to one’s career, being able to learn new ideas and viewpoints that lead to innovative business models, products, services, and impact, connecting people together that wouldn’t normally meet, which can lead to infusing new fresh talent in organizations and to creating a platform for sharing your own ideas and passions.

Through our networks, we have seen the power of people to innovate resulting in social and economic impact.

Yet, one of the rarely discussed benefits of networking, perhaps because it’s less tangible, its rewards less apparent and wide-reaching, and its impact less glamorous, is the benefit of friendship.  Almost two years ago, I (Deb) started seeing Vala on twitter.  Vala had sage tweets with a frank and humorous tone.  After a while, I reached out to Vala and we became twitter friends. That was almost two years ago.  Since then, the relationship has grown online and offline.  On the way to my annual retreat at my home in Maine for the past two years, Vala and his colleagues have treated me to an incredible lunch feast, prepared and served by Chef Brian Townsend (also known as Extreme Network’s Director of Global Technology Services & Operations).

During these two plus years, we’ve connected each other to amazing people so cool new things could happen. Through our networks, we have seen the power of people to innovate resulting in social and economic impact.  We’ve shared powerful moments watching amazing things happen, as detailed in this in Harvard Business Review article connecting a college kid with a business helping young kids with cancer to the Celtics.  We’ve broken bread, laughed, joked, teased, shared insights and wisdom… and become friends.

And that’s the rarely discussed benefit of networking… plain old friendship. As a society we want to quantify the outputs and outcomes.  They have to have an ROI.  But as Einstein said, “Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.”  As for us, while it’s not easy to ‘count’ our friendship, it most certainly counts… in very profound and joyful ways.
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Image credit: olechowski / 123RF Stock Photo

Vala Afshar and Deborah Mills-Scofield

VALA AFSHAR (@ValaAfshar) is the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) of Extreme Networks. An award-winning inventor of social technologies and customer services operations, Afshar is considered a pioneer in cloud computing, social collaboration, business intelligence and customer relationship management (CRM). Afshar is also the author of The Pursuit of Social Business Excellence, a new book that was published in September 2012. DEBORAH-MILLS SCOFIELD (@dscofield) is a partner at Glengary LLC, an early stage venture capital firm in Cleveland, OH, and an innovation and strategy consultant. Her patent from AT&T Bell Labs was one of the highest-revenue generating patents ever for AT&T & Lucent.

  • bradhines

    The human touch is the penultimate difference is a weak social media strategy and a great one, after all, you are putting back it’s biggest deficit when you bring back the humanity to it. As we get deeper in digital age, being able to remain warm and human is going to be key!

  • I love it, you two – and that quote from Einstein on what counts and what can be counted is brilliant. Deming, a statistician and management innovator, said much the same thing about what can be measured – coming from two math-centric visionaries, that carries even more weight for me. Or as Gary Vee put it, “What’s the ROI of your mother?”

    I found my two business partners on twitter, one of whom is my co-author on my upcoming book. I met you two on Twitter. I just met with two VCs yesterday who found me via LinkedIn (one of whom was an underclassman when I was a senior at William and Mary). Shawn, Mark, You two (and many more of our Leaguers and guests besides)… all of these people aren’t just business connections by now, you’re also friends – some very, very good friends. These two VCs? Who knows what may develop?

    How do you count ANY of that? I think trying would be foolish. I’m glad the fools are losing this longterm contest of how business is done in The Social Age. Long live relationships, trust, and even friendship as the new (uncountable) currency of business and life in this exciting new time!

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