Book Review: Social Gravity

Joe Gerstandt and Jason Lauritsen are two of my favorite people. They are consultants and speakers (like me), and they work around issues of diversity, HR, organization development (also like me). But that’s not why I like them. I like them because they are incredibly smart and kind, and (here’s the kicker) through them I have been introduced to a significant number of OTHER people who now qualify as my favorite people. I find myself these days connecting to tons of really smart people, and my life and career are growing because of it. I can’t attribute all that good stuff to Joe and Jason, but I do get the feeling that they are close to the center of the growth of my network lately.

And now I know why! They are masters of social capital. That is the subject of their new book, Social Gravity: Harnessing the Natural Laws of Relationships. The book is not long–it is clear and to the point–but it provides an incredibly valuable understanding of what “networking” really means, particularly in the digital age. As they say in the introduction:

What you know helps you play the game, and who you know helps you change the game.

The book is divided into two sections. The first section breaks down the importance of social networks. We often take the value of “networking” for granted, but they do a great job of revealing the real power of networks. This includes understanding the difference betwen strong and weak ties, the critical importance of diversity within networks, and an understanding the role technology plays in today’s world of social media. The second section presents six “laws” of social gravity:

  1. Invest in connecting
  2. Be open to connections
  3. Be authentic
  4. Get involved in meaningful activity
  5. Use Karma as a turbocharger
  6. Stay in touch.

The laws themselves may seem self-evident, but when I actually read the book I started to see how much on auto-pilot I have been when it comes to developing my network and building my social capital. And in today’s world, we can’t afford to mechanically work through our networking challenges. In Humanize, Maddie and talk about the importance of relationship building, within the context of organizations becoming more “generative.” We emphasize that relationship building is not just interpersonal–these days you have to know how to build relationships with people and their entire networks.

This book is the manual for doing just that. Building social capital requires us to change our behavior. It requires us to pay attention to networking in a new way. This is a critical business skill, even more so now that social media is taking off. But it’s not something we’re taught (enough) and is not (yet) something that is highly valued in organizations, but I think that time is coming. Get this book and read it, and then start being more intentional and skilled in the way you grow your network. Your future self will thank you.

I will also add that in most of our chapters in Humanize, we provided three “must read” recommendations related to the chapter. Joe and Jason were obviously a little late with their book, so if you have a copy of Humanize, get a pen and go to page 216 and write in Social Gravity as a Must Read for the Generative chapter (in addition to the equally awesome books up there by Frans Johansson, Beth Kantor/Allison Fine, and Nilofer Merchant).