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Jacky Sherman

The Consultant's Consultant

07970 638857


Why Some Network Groups Flounder

And why others thrive ...


Posted by Jacky Sherman on 23/09/2020 @ 8:00AM

If you’re running your own small business, sooner or later you will go networking. And when you do you will quite quickly discover that some network groups thrive whilst others flounder ...

When choosing a networking group, make sure it's the right one for you!

When choosing a networking group, make sure it's the right one for you!

copyright: rawpixel / 123rf

You will also discover that some thrive and then suddenly nose dive. Let me share with you a psychological experiment that gives one reason for that happening. David McRaney explains it in his book You are Not So, Smart.

It's called 'The Public Good Game'

"A group of people sit around a table, and each person is given a few pounds. The group is told they can put as much money as they want in the community pot. An experimenter then doubles the pot, and everyone then gets an equal portion back.

If it's 10 people and everyone gets £2 and everyone puts in that money, then the pot would be £20. It's doubled and divided out to everyone.They all get back £4.

The game then continues in rounds. You would think that everyone would just put the maximum amount in the pot each time, but they don't. Someone usually get the gist of the game and realises that one can put in very little, or nothing at all, and start making more money than everyone else.

If everyone, but you puts in £2 the pot will be £18, doubled to £36 and everyone gets £3.60 ... including you ... the one who put in nothing at all."

Even though this is a thought experiment and everyone can see what is happening, the pot tends to grow for a while and then shrinks because someone in the group is free riding.

Now, logically, the rest are still winning, so if they continue, they will still win, but they don't, they start to copy the freeloaders behaviour because no-one want to be taken for a ride and eventually the whole game grinds to a halt.

This behaviour only changes if the group applies sanctions (punishment to the cheater). Just rewarding the good players doesn't work. What people are reacting to is their innate sense of fairness.

Psychologically, as part of the tribe, you know one cheater will ruin everything and that most people will cheat if they think the system is cheating them.

"Now, apply that to a networking group!"

Everyone is motivated to help everyone else to win business. If just one person is only taking from the group and not contributing in, then that behaviour spreads. Existing members may not realise that it's happening because high givers will continue to give, but not so much.

New visitors will pick up a reticence amongst existing members to be generous. Slowly at first, but people will start to drift away, At some stage, a few members will form a breakaway group The group disintegrates and only strong and, often painful, action will save it .... applying some sanctions to the transgressors. More often than not, the group breaks apart.

So, how can you stop this happening? Here's my three tips:

  1. Have clear expectations for the group. What is the purpose? If the purpose is to generate business through referrals then many groups have an expectation that you bring referrals and will monitor members contributions to that endeavour.

    Other groups may have softer expectations around what counts as giving. Make sure you choose one that fits with your own expectations.

  2. Give strong leadership that is aware of the dynamics of the group and spots people who are floundering or not contributing and most importantly takes action.

    Whilst I would always advocate encouragement first, listen to the conversations and be prepared to support the leader to tackle blatant, and not so blatant, free loaders.

  3. Be conscious of your own behaviours. Are you slipping into destructive behaviours without even realising it? If this group is valuable to you, be prepared to put in the extra effort it will take to turn this around. Find your allies in the group and start making a difference. One of my favourite quotes comes from Ghandi "Be the change you want to see in the world".

Until next time ...



Would you like to know more?

If anything I've written in this blog post resonates with you and you'd like to discover more, it may be a great idea to give me a call on 07970 638857. Let's have an initial chat over a coffee and see how I can help you.

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