Seven Habits of Highly Connected People

This article published as Seven Habits of Highly Connected People in eLearn Magazine Apr 18, 2008. [Link] Type: C - Publications in Trade Journals [List all Publications]

With apologies-and all due credit-to Stephen Covey.

1. Be Reactive
There's a lot of talk about user-generated content on the Web. That's great. But if publishing your own stuff comes at the expense of reading and commenting on other people's stuff, that's not so great.

The first thing any connected person should be is receptive. Whether on a discussion forum, mailing list, or in a blogging community or gaming site, it is important to spend some time listening and getting the lay of the land.

Then, your forays into creating content should be as reactions to other people's points of view. This will ensure, first of all, that they read your comment, and second, that your post is relevant to the discussion at hand.

Posting, after all, isn't about airing your own views. It's about connecting, and the best way to connect is to clearly draw the link between their content and yours.

2. Go With The Flow
We all know those people in our online community who are out to "prove something," to "get things done," or to "market themselves."

These are people we tend to avoid. Because no matter what the topic of discussion, they'll weigh in with their pet project, peeve, or talking point.

When connecting online, it is more important to find the places to which you can add value rather than pursue a particular goal or objective. The Web is a fast-changing medium, and you need to adapt to fit the needs of the moment, rather than to be driving it forward along a specific agenda.

This doesn't mean you shouldn't have any goals or principles for yourself. You should; that's what will inform your participation. It's just a reminder that your goals are not the same as other people's goals, and therefore your online participation needs to respect that fact.

3. Connection Comes First
People talk about not having time for email, of not having time for blogs. Sometimes they even talk about working without an Internet connection.

It's good to take a break and go out camping, or to the club, or whatever. But the idea of replacing your online connecting with busy-work is mistaken.

In almost all fields, connecting with others online is the work. The papers you write, the memos you read and toss-all have to do with connecting with people. Even if you work with your hands, making cabinets or rebuilding engines, all your contacts with customers and suppliers are about connecting with people.

If you don't have enough time for reading email, writing blog posts, or posting to discussion lists, ask yourself what other activities you are doing that are cutting in to your time. These are the things that are often less efficient uses of your time.

If you are spending time in meetings, spending time traveling or commuting to work, spending time reading books and magazines, spending time telephoning people (or worse, on hold, or playing phone tag) then you are wasting time that you could be spending connecting to people online.

If you make connecting a priority, you can take that walk in the forest on vacation in Cadiz without feeling you are not caught up.

4. Share
We've all heard the advice to "think win-win." Forget that advice. If you follow that advice, you will always be looking at things and saying, "What's in it for me?" That's exactly the wrong attitude to have in a connected world.

The way to function in a connected world is to share without thinking about what you will get in return. It is to share without worrying about so-called "free-riders" or people taking advantage of your work.

In a connected world, you want to be needed and wanted. This will, over time, cause resources to be sent to you, not as a reward for some piece of work, but because people will want to send you stuff to help you to be even more valuable to them

When you share, people are more willing to share with you. In a networked world, this gives you access to more than you could ever produce or buy by yourself. By sharing, you increase your own capacity, which increases your marketability.

5. RTFM
RTFM stands for "Read The Fine Manual" (or some variant thereof) and is one of the primary rules of conduct on the Internet.

What it means, basically, is that people should make the effort to learn for themselves before seeking instruction from others.

Almost everything a person could need to know has been recorded somewhere online (by people who are sharing their knowledge freely). Taking the time and effort to look at this work is not merely respectful, it demonstrates a certain degree of competence and self-reliance.

For example, if your software fails to install, instead of calling customer service or posting a note on a bulletin board, copy the error message into the Google search field and look for answers. Almost every software error has been encountered (and documented) by someone before you.

Finally, when you do ask for help, you can state what you've read and tried, and why it didn't work. This saves people from giving you advice you don't need, and helps them focus on what's unique about your problem.

6. Cooperate
Offline people collaborate. They join teams, share goals, and work together. Everybody works in the same place, they use the same tools, and have the same underlying vision of the project or organization.

Online, people cooperate. They network. Each has his or her own goals and objectives, but what joins the whole is a web of protocols and communications. People contribute their own parts, created (as they say in open source programming) to "satisfy their own itch."

This is probably the consequence of distance. Online, it is not possible to enforce your will or (beyond a limited extent) to get your way by shouting and intimidation. This means that online communications are much more voluntary than offline communications. And successful online connectors recognize this.

To cooperate, it is necessary to know the protocols. These are not rules-anybody can break them. But they establish the basis for communication. Protocols exist in all facets of online communications, from the technologies that connect software (like TCP/IP and HTML) to the ways people talk with each other (like netiquette and emoticons).

7. Be Yourself
What makes online communication work is the realization that, at the other end of that lifeless terminal, is a living and breathing human being. The only way to enable people to understand you is to allow them to sympathize with you, to get to know you, to feel empathy for you. Comprehension has as much to do with feeling as it does with cognition.

People who use online communications "only for business"-or worse, feel that other people shouldn't be posting cat photos or playing Scrabble on Facebook-are employing only a small part of the communications capacity of the Internet.

Learning and communicating are not merely acts of sending content over a wire. They are about engaging in (what Wittgenstein called) a "way of life." Having a cat is as important for a physicist as having an advanced research lab. These common everyday things form the mental structure on which we hang the highly theoretical structure. The idea behind "being yourself" is not that you have some sort of offline life (though you may). Rather, it's a recognition that your online life encompasses the many different facets of your life, and that it is important that these facets are all represented and work together.

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Comments

Re: Seven Habits of Highly Connected People

Stephen, thanks for the post. I became a high school educator in my late 40's. My eleven years have been spent using an approach that is roughly 50/30/20 percent behaviorist/cognitivist/constructivist.

Practically speaking, I recognized that fewer than 10% of my students had any intrinsic interest in exploring chemistry or physics, no matter how I attempted to make connections between these disciplines and my students' lives. I invited them to take an active part in their own education. The overwhelming majority of them were too unaccustomed to this "novel" idea; administration, students, and parents were equally resistant. I encountered a culture that taught learned helplessness, by unspoken precept. Students felt that high school was "done to them". Although they felt ignored and disrespected by this social norm, most were too burdened with other social phenomenon (interactions with peers and parents, for example) to consider the possible value in a new learning paradigm. After enduring four years of force fed facts and administrative manipulation, youth were content to be "rewarded" with a diploma [Comment] [Permalink]

Re: Seven Habits of Highly Connected People

Amazing Post!
nice resourceful stuff,I really enjoyed reading the post and appreciate the information you are offering here.
Thanks for sharing
[Comment] [Permalink]

Re: Seven Habits of Highly Connected People

Thanks: this encourages me to feel that I can make a contribution without having to write my own blog; I prefer to react to others' remarks and to act as a nexus. [Comment] [Permalink]

Re: Seven Habits of Highly Connected People

Fabulous post.
Nice case study and wonderful thought provoking information,

Thanks for sharing
Nevin
Study8Home [Comment] [Permalink]

Re: Seven Habits of Highly Connected People - another comment

Stephen - Thank you and well said. It strikes me that what we are about here, is engagement. Let's be honest about our thoughts and opinions. Be free with our own... and open to others. Share and be willing to receive.

I have been criticized for my "devils advocate" approach, but as I see it, I am more open to change than many when I engage in debate... I learn more from forcing you to defend your position than I do from some complacent acceptance (or rejection) of your view. Let's talk, let's share, let's disagree and agree. You learn from me and I will learn from you. We all have so much to learn! Let's just get on with it.

Stephen Dixon [Comment] [Permalink]

Re: Seven Habits of Highly Connected People - another comment

Stephen - Thank you and well said. It strikes me that what we are about here, is engagement. Let's be honest about our thoughts and opinions. Be free with our own... and open to others. Share and be willing to receive.

I have been criticized for my "devils advocate" approach, but as I see it, I am more open to change than many when I engage in debate... I learn more from forcing you to defend your position than I do from some complacent acceptance (or rejection) of your view. Let's talk, let's share, let's disagree and agree. You learn from me and I will learn from you. We all have so much to learn! Let's just get on with it.

Stephen Dixon [Comment] [Permalink]

Re: Seven Habits of Highly Connected People

bravo, Stephen!!! you are so right!!!!

thanks very mcuh, Susan in Italy [Comment] [Permalink]

Re: Seven Habits of Highly Connected People

Great article, thank you Stephen !

Have just put it into a booklet style layout, and left on the staff room coffee table. For some people, that's a more effective way to connect than sending a link or saving in delicious.

(Do my colleagues follow my blog or delicious? i think not. Hence the print + coffee table approach ;-]

best regards, michael [Comment] [Permalink]

Re: Seven Habits of Highly Connected People

G'day Stephen, I'm a long term Covey fan and encourage my students to read the book "7 habits..." I also like the book that followed (although it was a bit long and over done), "The 8th habit: From effectiveness to greatness". What I like about thinking about simple "habits" is they are a basic formula for enabling learning and growth for self and others.

I am also a Web 2.0 devotee and have been gaining momentum in this area in the past couple of years. I love being able to connect with people who have the same passions and who have a "copy left" attitude to sharing their knowledge, resources and ideas.

Having just found your webpage today and now visiting some of your posts I will also link you on my blog http://technots.blogspot.com/ so my network can connect with your writing. [Comment] [Permalink]

Re: Seven Habits of Highly Connected People

Hi Stephen,

Great post - the only bit I'd quibble about is the interpretation of "Think Win-Win" - it isn't meant to be the common business interpretation that says how do I benefit regardless of the outcome?" - Instead I've always understood Stephen Covey to have meant that its about how do I achieve my goals while helping others achieve theirs. You Win,I Win - that's where the two wins come from.

A respected colleague said to me recently that she worries about people who horde their ideas in case someone nicks them - mainly because they're afraid it might be the only good idea they'll have - whereas the people who regularly throw their ideas into the public domain are generally confident that there will be even better ideas popping up tomorrow.

I thank you for being one of the latter!

Cheers and keep those ideas flowing!

Kim Flintoff B.A., Grad. Dip. Ed., M.Ed.
PhD Candidate
QUT Creative Industries: Performance Studies
Sessional Lecturer/Tutor/University Colleague
ECU School of Education and Arts: Contemporary Performance / Drama Education / Primary Education
Virtual Worlds Simulation Advisor
Curtin University of Technology School of Nursing and Midwifery
University Supervisor
Murdoch University School of Education
Front of House Manager
AEG Ogdens - Perth Concert Hall / Government House Ballroom
IT Research, Training and Support Officer
Presbyterian Ladies College
[Comment] [Permalink]

Re: Seven Habits of Highly Connected People

Stephen, thanks for posting this here. Yet another great piece of writing from you. I think #4 is so critical. As the We Think video states, we increasingly are becoming what we share... [Comment] [Permalink]

Re: Seven Habits of Highly Connected People

Stephen,

A good read. I forwarded it to my inhouse Covey guru. :)

I have some questions about # 3. Connection comes first

I get the gist of what you are saying: Make time to go online and express yourself becasue you will get a lot out of it.

But by your tone, you seem to advocate online people are more valuable the people in your immediate surroundings. Or were you speaking tongue in cheek? I will assume you were serious so...

Yes, if you have the technology tools, you could email and text and blog on the bus on the way to work or duing boring meetings. But what is wrong with reading magainzines and books? Or is your version of the consumption of books and magazines is that they shoudl be electronic with comments sections so you can interact witht he content and learn more than the "static words"? I tink this is your latter point.

But why can't we be disconnected at some point (vacation) and then re-connect when something resonates (when you get back home). I am just trying to come up with a happy medium. (My mother and in-laws are not online, so the phone is the lifeline to Moncton and Ontario from Fredericton.)

Being online comes at the cost of purchasing technology. What if you can't afford the technology to make productive use of idle time (bus, meetings). Are people that can't afford technology or the time to sit in fromt of a terminal having less happy lives?

Now the fun part. I will use your third principle as proof to my wife that I no longer have to cut the grass as talking to someone about cutting the grass is way more enjoyable than the task iteslf! :)

Bradley shoebottom, Fredericton, NB [Comment] [Permalink]

Re: Seven Habits of Highly Connected People

Thank you for mentioning 'Go with the Flow'. Recently I was quite taken aback (not the first time !!) when on another forum I suggested, perhaps, it is better to keep a well-established term instead of coming out with more new terms. My concern is more about well documented resources might be left out because of using new terms. I was lashed. I could take the lashing. I am thick skin. What happened is, the whole conversation abruptly stopped. Others no longer want to join in with the discussions.

I think part of the reason is, English is not my native language, therefore it is very possible that what I wrote might not be 'smooth and pleasing' in tones. Another possibility could be that I did not explain clearly my intention(s).

As we all know, online conversation is like the 3 Monkeys .. no see, no hear, no talk/sound. The trusted f2f 'senses' are not available therefore it is important we have to 'listen and see like a blind person' with more thoughts on the handicapped of others, such as language deficiencies. Look for the content of what the writer writes. Not frills what the writer might not be able to provide. [Comment] [Permalink]

Re: Seven Habits of Highly Connected People

Thanks for this post, it has encouraged me to return to my social networking sites and write another blog. i was feeling rather that i should be for example "phone tagging"instead of waisting time connecting with people online,rather than, to quote you...
'wasting time that you could be spending connecting to people online.'

I have just read three of your articles, the one about education (which i forwarded to our home educated son, ' organising your writing', which i will probably read again to clarify and apply to my onw writing, which i am now, thanks to you, enthused to do more of.

To change the subject quickly,
The thing i like about stumble..(that offered up your site to me), is that it seems to be tuned into the collective cocnsciousness of man/woman.
Thank you

[Comment] [Permalink]

Re: Seven Habits of Highly Connected People

I'm struck by your comment "Rather, it's a recognition that your online life encompasses the many different facets of your life, and that it is important that these facets are all represented and work together.".

I've just finished writing a brief article on personal learning environments and one of the thoughts I've had is how an individual's online personal learning environment also needs to blend with their off line environment. In the future I believe there will be less distinction between online and off line. Everything will blend and online activities will just become one facet of a person's life.

Tracy Larson
theonlinelearningnewsletter@gmail.com
[Comment] [Permalink]

Re: Seven Habits of Highly Connected People

helpful approach, countering a lot of conventions. What is my purpose in this, age old question.
thanks Bill Dare [Comment] [Permalink]

Re: Seven Habits of Highly Connected People

I am struck by the fundamental principles of relationships you have outlined, the same values I teach clients in psychotherapy and couples counseling. The truth is the same, from whatever angle it is viewed.

I am hoping to develop an online community of persons who desire to improve the quality of their lives, using each others resources to build upon.

Thank you for your articles and continuing contributions.

Benjamin B. Conley, M.Div., LMRT
howtobehappy.net [Comment] [Permalink]

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