Right place right time cityscape

Wouldn’t it be nice to find success in your career by happening to be ‘in the right place at the right time’?

According to network scientist Ron Burt, your best chance is to hang around the places that are most likely to become ‘right’, and those elusive places are the ‘structural holes’ in networks of people.

There are always certain groups within a network that tend not to mix due to their different cultures. Yet it is that very mixing of different viewpoints that more often sparks off innovative ideas. So this creates an opportunity for you to bridge these gaps in networks to create a new possibility of innovation.

Open your network

I like how journalist Michael Simmons recently took a fresh look at Steve Jobs’ success at Apple. He found it was less about his personality quirks and more about how he joined-the-dots in the right places (between diverse communities and viewpoints).

What’s more, you can replicate this yourself.

Unfortunately (or fortunately), the answer is to move outside your comfort zone – to actively find people or industries who think differently to you, so you can open up your network.

Closed and open network

Closed networks

  • Are: trusted, comfortable, and easy to get things done in
  • But: tend to hold similar views (so members confirm what you already believe)

Open networks

  • Are: challenging, you often feel like an outsider, and you have to deal with multiple world-views
  • But: are more accurate (errors are challenged) and foster new ideas (from the clash of opposing views).

So I guess it comes down to a numbers game – to find new insights and opportunities, you just need to shake lots more interesting hands.

“If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.”
— Henry Ford

About InsightNG

InsightNG is a smart thinking-tool that helps you gain greater clarity and deeper understanding when making important decisions, completing assignments, or getting through personal challenges.


About Douglas Campbell

Douglas spends a galling amount of time thinking about metadata and helping people find the information they need. Previously he has designed and product-managed search systems for national institutions in New Zealand. He is now working deep down in the nitty-gritty, developing our machine intelligence engine.