TEDx Talk Text

Did you know you’ve got a superpower when it comes to driving progress? CLICK  It’s your ability to communicate and connect. Let’s explore the power of this connectivity today.

But first, I’ll ask a rather strange question. By a show of hands, how many of you here have had antibiotics? 

Well you can be very grateful to one lazy lab tech who probably forgot to clean a lab about a 100 years ago. 

Because this is where Alexander Fleming accidentally discovered penicillin. CLICK This led to the start of the antibiotic revolution.

But real revolutionary change like this rarely comes out of sheer luck, or laziness.

More often than not, they come through concerted, driven effort. Like the abolition of slavery.

We all want to make a difference like that, don’t we? Change the world. 

The types of change we can drive through effort can be broken down into essentially three different categories. 


One: Macro change – these are the big ticket items like wanting to cure cancer. 

Macro change makers are essential to society. Much of the progress we’ve had in history has been through cause-driven, dedicated individuals.

Two: Micro change – this is noticing a starving homeless person on the streets and feeling compelled buying them a meal. Everyday society and our community is better for it – our inherent need to do good, irrespective of big picture goal.

But the most powerful of them all is a combination of both – the little actions that lead to a big impact. Micro exponential change. This is being the catalyst; starting the butterfly effect that leads to change at scale. So, who are these people? Well, it’s  teacher who taught Bill Gates to code, that friend who introduced the founders of Google.

These roles make us the first domino – the connector of the dots. Connecting people to  information, opportunity, or other people –  it dramatically increases your capacity to have an impact.

This is because through being a facilitator, you not only pave the pathway for the change you’re trying to create, but that of others as well.


CLICK When it comes to being this facilitator or connector though, it’s important to understand the role of connectivity in the evolution of society.

One of the most prominent of these has been the development of complex societal structures (such as laws, governments, and even nations). Part of this as well is the associated tribe mentality. 

This mentality can be seen in our reaction to the suffering.  Which can be broken down into four degrees of strength:

CLICK  Pity, Sympathy, Empathy, and Compassion.

Pity being the weakest and compassion being the strongest. Let’s call this the care scale. The closer you are to someone, the further we go up this scale, the more we care, and therefore the more we act. 

Let’s try a quick psychological exercise.

OK, everyone, close your eyes. 

Now, imagine a five year old girl starving in Africa. Remember that feeling.

Now separately, imagine your best friend’s five year old daughter starving in Africa. 

Which of these do you feel more compelled to act on? 

Open your eyes. 

Not only is our reaction to the latter generally stronger, it’s physiologically different. 

Survival of the fittest has driven us to care for and value those closest to us (our pack, our tribes, our families).

You can see this in  the notion of “buying local.”

Many today take pride in buying local because they’d like to support their own communities, their people, their economies. It’s the right thing to do? Right?

Hang on, let’s look at the cost-benefit from a purely human perspective. Buying local may help Tom in Australia feed his family. But buying international for the same amount, accounting for the differences in living expenses, may help feed five to ten families in countries such as Indonesia.

This morality bias is a direct outcome of our tribal mentality.


So, going back to connectivity – how does greater connectivity help us reduce this bias and more?

Well, fewer degrees of separation can help alleviate this “us vs. them perspective”  problem by essentially blurring the lines between communities. And three beautiful things that happen as a result. CLICK

Number one: A broader field of empathy. You feel more for those socially connected to you. And the more connected the world is, the more people you’re connected to as a result.

Number two: A greater distribution of opportunities.  You can see this  in the rapid growth of developing world through things such as globalization and commerce over the internet  – which is the very fabric  a of modern day connectivity. 

Number three: Easier acceptance of differences. 

A good example of this is the former Vice President of the United States, Dick Cheney. Mr. Cheney was entirely against same sex marriage right up until his daughter came out as gay, and then did a complete 180.

But the most interesting effect is the degrees of influence. CLICK  Research suggests, ripple effects of things such as happiness, health, and even political progress can reach those within three degrees of us. So if social class is in a position of advantage, bringing others within three degrees of them, could potentially lead to a greater distribution of this positive state of being.


This all sounds well and good CLICK  but connecting 7 billion people sounds hard. Well, it’s easier than it sounds. CLICK

See, we grossly underestimate our ability to leverage things such as the exponential because we are not psychologically, evolutionarily designed to understand it.

CLICK You can see this in the failure of things such as Multi Level Marketing or Pyramid Schemes.

Now, let’s role play this.CLICK   Imagine I’m here today to sell you a tree that grows money. But there’s one catch. For it to keep growing money, you need to get five of your friends to buy a tree. CLICK And for theirs to keep growing money, they’ve got to get five of theirs to do the same, and so on. CLICK  With over 7 billion people and a product this good, you’d think this could go on forever.

So, you call five of your friends together and convince them to jump on board. Say on average this process takes four minutes, and they do the same with their friends, and their friends continue the pattern.

An hour passes by. How many people do you think would have signed up?

Raise your hand if you think it’s under 50. Raise your hand if you think it’s over 50. Raise your hands if you think it’s over 5000. Let’s go big or go home. Raise your hands if you think it’s over 500,000.

Would you like to know what the number is? You would have signed up, in just an hour, over 6 billion people. CLICK Just by getting the right five people onboard.


But we have far more than just five contacts. CLICK In fact, the average person has nearly 700 connections. 

In a traditional tribal sense though, homo sapiens were only designed to maintain about 150 “stable” social relationships. CLICK But, there is a but, with things such as  digital networks, we’ve vastly increased this capacity, by essentially externalizing the storage of these relationships. 

As a result, tribes too have become far more than a single small group of people – they’ve become intersecting layers of our existence. CLICK We as individuals today are parts of extended tribes based on demographic,, profession, nationality and much more.

This multi-tribe existence coupled with our increase social capacity has dramatically improved our ability and speed by which we cross traditional social limitation.

Let’s take Facebook for example.  CLICK Per two people you connect, by a single degree of separation, you’re connecting nearly 700 people. Nothing too impressive. By one additional degrees you’re connecting over 100,000 people. CLICK If you go just a hop further, you’re connecting nearly 40 million. CLICK 

In fact, Facebook claims each person on their platform is a mere 3.57 degrees apart (not the traditional 6). What’s more, Mark Zuckerberg himself is just over 3 degrees from most people on Facebook.

CLICK So let’s say Sarah in Sydney has a dream that could only come true by meeting Mark.

CLICK Sarah may be at college with Tom, who’s an exchange student from the US. Tom’s dad might own a car repair shop in San Francisco. And, Mark may be a long-term customer of Tom’s dad’s. This ridiculously short human highway that I just described – it’s not an anomaly; it’s more like the average.

Which means you too probably have a friend who could introduce you to someone, who may just be able to introduce you to the founder of Facebook.

So why are these middle-men, these connectors necessary? 

This is because facilitators of contact help bypass other social prerequisites. AKA. The breaking of the ice.

CLICK In our recent study with The Socialites we asked participants to estimate their likelihood of connecting with someone or helping someone based on three factors:

  1. A mutual contact referred them
  2. The sheer number of mutual contacts
  3. The number of things they had in common

Contrary to what we had expected CLICK  people rated a referral from a mutual contact as the single most powerful determinant in their willingness to connect with or help someone. 

This makes the role of a connector an extraordinarily powerful driver of social action. 


CLICK  So, let’s put this to the test, shall we.

We’re going to carry out a quick social exercise – that will allow most of you (but not all) to act as either a connector and leverage connectors in this room.

When I say go, Everyone, take 10  seconds to think of something you or a friend needs help with. Go.

And, stop.

Now, only after I say GO again, you’ll do 3 easy things. Turn to either the person to your left or right  – your choice. Play one game of rock-paper-scissors. The winner will be the connector and listener. And the other person tell the connector your problem.

You’ll have 20 seconds to do this. Ready? Go. CLICK 

And stop.

Connectors. During the break, speak to the person next to you, and find out more about the problem. If you can think of anyone that can help, jot down the other person’s contact details and get them in touch.

With this under one minute exercise, each connector can help tap into hundreds of new people to tackle your problem. And what if,theoretically, all their friends reached out to their contacts? That would add up to hundreds of thousands of people and their resources at your disposal, per problem.

You may just lead the the meeting of the founders of the next Google! In fact, this one minute may just lead you to land your dream job or meet the love of your life!


We all want to change something about world. And the takeaway is this – the people we know are our tools at hand

There are three keys steps:


First step: Make an active effort to convert temporary interactions – however fleeting – into contacts. The average person may meet upwards of 10,000 people in their lifetime, but only ever stay connected to a few hundred. An additional permanent contact, under the right circumstances, could bring about a monumental change for yourself, someone you care about, or humanity.

Second step: Get to know the people you know better. There’s no point having a toolbox if you don’t know what the tools are good for. So, go out there – grab a coffee (or if you’re too lazy, stalk your friends on LinkedIn).  

Third and most important step: Think beyond yourself. Our ability lies within our network. Often times – and I’m guilty of this –  when we come across a problem we cannot fix, we end the thought process there and move on. But if we made the effort to reach deep into our connection-rich toolkit of hundreds if not thousands, there’s almost always someone who can. Either themselves or through people they know.

CLICK The problems of the world whether it’s global hunger or your friend’s inability to put an Ikea bed together – they’re not very different to a puzzle or a math problem. Each degree closer we get as a community is a degree closer we get to solving these.

For millions of years, homo sapiens have used natural resources as a capital to sustain life. Modern day humans  we use information as a capital to create a better life. Let’s start using our social capital to create a better society.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *