The power of asymmetric connections
- By Robyn Scott -
- Jul 19, 2012
Today's guest blog focuses on the problems that can occur within business when confronted with constant symmetricity...
We’re programmed to like, trust, admire, date and – yes – do business with those like ourselves. A combination of geography, profession-identification, culture and social groups contrive to connect us “symmetrically”. Consciously or unconsciously, we spend most of our personal and professional lives with those who are recognisable and who seem safe – in part because we see ourselves in the other.
The price of this comfortable, symmetrical environment is to miss out on invaluable business opportunities.
The Kenyan automobile entrepreneur who meets the London investor. The American inventor of a revolutionary shoe that raises money for trafficked women who connects with the European MTV executive. Connections between two different worlds, “asymmetric connections”, are the hardest to make. They often feel uncomfortable at first. But they are the most revolutionary and rewarding in business.
The challenge of making asymmetric connections more accessible is at the heart of why we created OneLeap. It’s also a personal story. OneLeap’s three co-founders came to the UK as outsiders – from far-flung Botswana and New Zealand. We didn’t fit neatly into any mould. Two of us had not gone to school until the age of 14. We’d all felt the pain and cost (both in time and difficulty) of trying to get a foot in the door in a cliquey business environment like the UK. Equally, coming together as a founding team in a tech company from worlds including writing books, diplomacy and Formula 1, we’ve experienced the value of “asymmetric” business relationships that mix different backgrounds.
You might reasonably assume that this problem of creating connections between different worlds will be solved, with time, in the online world – to which, every year, millions more have access. But the internet is failing to deliver on its most exciting promise: to connect us better.
Why? Who has time to wade through the hundreds of daily emails, tweets and friend requests to discover the handful of really valuable connections? With contact so devalued by volume, and no quick way to know who is really serious, we simply cannot afford to invest our attention in everyone who knocks on our virtual door.
It gets worse. Online communication not only overwhelms us with its sheer volume, it nudges us to be less not more open in whom we meet. Consider online networks. We're nudged to “friend” people our friends know, follow people like us, and connect to people similar to us. Networks meant to open us – and our companies – to the best ideas, talent and opportunities from anywhere, instead risk imprisoning us in echo-chambers.
OneLeap tears down echo chambers and creates asymmetric connections by putting a ‘charity price’ on people’s heads. Anyone can send a short message to any of the business leaders, corporate decision-makers or investors profiled on OneLeap – if they’re serious enough to “put their money where their mouth is” to make contact. OneLeap members set their starting fee and the maximum number of messages they want to receive per month. The fee increases with demand so they’re never deluged. Members also choose a charity to benefit and when they reply to a message, 80% of every fee goes to their charity.
Because our members know that anyone reaching out to them through OneLeap is serious, they can afford to be more open to the tremendous value that those from beyond their traditional networks have to offer. This value is eclectic – from bringing together corporate decision-makers with entrepreneurs like Joel Jackson of Mobius Motors in Kenya and Aashika Damodar of Breaking Heels in the US, to connecting a UK hedge fund partner to the Hong Kong-based inventor of a specialist hedge fund product and small UK businesses to potential clients, partners and board members. But in every case the principle is the same: access is available to anyone serious enough to put their money where their mouth is – regardless of their geography, profession or social circumstances. By creating more asymmetry in business connections, our mission is to create more symmetry in access to business opportunities, where symmetry is still so rare – and so vital if innovation and enterprise are to flourish.
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