The Value of Weak Ties

I've heard people complain that having hundreds or thousands of Facebook friends is nothing more than a waste of time and that it just promotes a false sense of popularity. While this may be true if you are adding people who you don't know, maintaining contact with acquaintances you are not particularly close to can be extremely helpful when it comes to networking.

In The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell discusses the benefit of weak ties - connections you have that are not particularly tight, but that provide good opportunites. Of course we are more comfortable interacting with our family and strong friends than with our acquaintances. The problem with that is that the social circles of our strong ties overlap our own too much. The great thing about keeping loose contact with a wide variety of people is that your weak ties operate in a completely different circle. And that can come in handy.

Without Facebook, I would probably try to keep in contact with less than 50 of the people who are currently listed as my friends. With Facebook, I'm able to keep weak contact with over 600 people, at least two-thirds of whom I would be completely comfortable asking for help if I were trying to find a job.

Overcoming Criticism

When you've got a great idea that you think has the ability to change the world, it is understandable that not everyone will share your zeal. What is always a bit shocking, though, is to see people go out of their way to criticize you and tell you that it your idea could never work.

A good example of this happened with Muhammad Yunus. Wanting to improve the living conditions of those around him in his native Bangladesh, Yunus started the Grameen Bank, a microcredit institution that offers small loans to entrepreneurs to help them grow their businesses. Although Grameen has helped many people rise from poverty and Yunus awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, the path to success was not easy.

In Banker to the Poor, Yunus details the fierce opposition that he encountered while he was first starting. Commenting on this opposition, he writes,

"Things are never as complicated as they seem. It is only our arrogance that prompts us to find unnecessarily complicated answers to simple problems."

To Yunus, the answer to poverty was simple. Fortunately for millions of people across the world, Yunus perservered through the arrogance of others and Grameen became what it is today.

Inspired by Grameen Bank, Anasazi Foundation, and my passion for travel, I delevoped an idea that I thought could have a similar effect. When I was in college, I begin writing a business plan for a company that would take at-risk teenagers to third world countries to provide service. My idea was that seeing poverty first hand would give the kids a wake up call, and that doing service would help them become better people. In addition, citizens of these countries would benefit by the services provided (building schools, providing better access to water, etc.).

In an effort to promote my idea, I decided to apply for an ORCA grant through BYU. To do so, I had to have a professor to sponsor me. I met with three or four professors from the business school, and each one told me how ridiculous the idea was and how it would never work because of the liability involved.

I was eventually referred to another professor who, I was told, would definitely be interested. I met with him, only to find out that he currently had a group of four graduate students who were writing a business plan for the exact same idea. At first I was thrilled: I thought that he would sponsor me for sure. But he went on to tell me that he saw me as competition and would not help me at all.

Disappointed, I gave up my attempts to find a sponsor and my interest in pursuing the business faded. Two months later, this professor's team took second place at that year's competition for social entrepreneurship, winning thousands of dollars for their business.

While my story isn't the best example of following through to the end, I did learn that criticism is inevitable, even if what you're doing can change the world for good. The key is to realize that not everyone will share your enthusiasm for your ideas. Knowing this ahead of time may spare you disappointment and help you press forward despite your critics.

Being Remarkable

Enka is a traditional ballad-style genre of Japanese music. Historically, enka has only been popular among older generations. Over the last few years, however, the popularity of enka among younger Japanese has increased. A large part of this increase can be attributed to Jero, the first black enka singer in Japanese music history. To add to his uniqueness, Jero has insisted on maintaining his hip-hop image rather than wearing the traditional kimono during performances, and this has added greatly to his appeal.

In Purple Cow, Seth Godin argues that in order to be noticed, you must create something remarkable. That is to say, you need to create something worth making a remark about. He gives the example of driving down a country road and seeing cows out the car window. After seeing a few cows, seeing another one is boring. But if you saw a purple cow, now that would be remarkable.

Jero could have tried being a rapper in the United States. He looks like a rapper. He probably would have been decent at it. But by doing so, he would've gotten lost among everyone else who looks just like him. Instead, he chose to stand out. Instead, he chose to be remarkable.


Sometimes the success of an idea can be determined simply by its presentation. When the owner of started out, sales of his venus flytraps were small. Only after re-branding the plants as fast-snapping, fly-chomping monsters did the concept become a hit. The beautiful thing about My Carnivore's business model is that no competitor can replicate it without being a complete rip-off. To me, this is a great example of using creativity to turn a simple business into a unique story that engages people.

Fads vs. Trends

A lot of people use the words trend and fad interchangeably. In reality, the two are not the same. A fad is a temporary surge in popularity of a fashion, style, or use of a product. A trend on the other hand, is a general course of prevailing tendency. My favorite definition of the word comes from

" A [trend is a] manifestation of something that has unlocked or newly serviced an existing (and hardly ever changing) consumer need, desire, want, or value."

Facebook isn't going away because it was the first vehicle that easily allowed us to keep track of old friends. It unlocked the need to communicate in an addictive, new way.

Pogs, skinny jeans, and bug-eyed sunglasses never did that.

Knowing the difference between a trend and a fad might help you avoid ending up like Fountain Fresh.

Welcome to! is designed to share the most intriguing and effective trends and practices emerging from the world of business. With a goal of chasing creativity, this blog will highlight well-known concepts as well and introduce new thoughts regarding entrepreneurship, marketing, consumer behavior, persuasion, and brand management, to name a few. Check back frequently and feel free to add to the stack with your own perspectives and ideas!