The Reliants Project #36

How networks shape our lives

Thanks for signing up to all the new readers! Here are some nuggets about how networks shape your wellbeing, relationships and community to help you actively cultivate yours.


Finally, I picked up Friends by Robin Dunbar, which was released this past spring. He is most famous for “Dunbar’s number”, but he has contributed a great deal more to the study of friendship. In the book he reflects on decades of research around the evolutionary advantages of making friends, as well as the cognitive limits of friendship. A few of his (and his collaborators) key developments:

  • Social Brain Hypothesis - that brain size is directly related to social group size (for primates, including us)

  • Social Fingerprint - that each of us has a unique pattern of engaging with our social group that is consistent over time

  • Touch, laughter, singing, dancing, and eating together create the strongest sense of belonging


David Rockefeller’s Rolodex Was the Stuff of Legend. I’m sure that tracking this information helped to mitigate many of the cognitive biases we have around building and maintaining relationships. While few of us would go to these lengths today, it’s a fascinating cultural artefact.

“Mr. Rockefeller learned the importance of contacts while an Army intelligence officer overseas during World War II, according to his memoir. “My effectiveness depended on my ability to develop a network of people with reliable information,’’ he wrote.”

What a great example of realising that it’s not only what you know, it’s who you know!


The venture capital firm NfX has published their take on Building A “Community-First” Company. While the post has a strong emphasis around non-fungible tokens (NFTs), the concept is much more broadly applicable. Basically, she says that the typical path to starting a busines looked something like this:

  1. come up with an idea

  2. do market research

  3. talk to some customers

  4. build a product

  5. take that product to the customers and try to sell it to them

A new model that she sees emerging looks more like this:

  1. There might be…a symbol that represents some principles

  2. a community forms around…those principles

  3. through engagement with the community, further products and concepts emerge out of that community

In my experience, the reality is somewhere inbetween. The principles might be a shared experience or a problem that a group of people want to solve. Perhaps the key difference is intention. Networks form around the company either way, but whether they are harnessed to form a community and drive outcomes makes all the difference.

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About The Reliants Project

Reliant is my word for a person that someone depends on, an essential component of our social networks. With each edition, I’ll share useful nuggets about how networks shape your wellbeingrelationships, and community to help you actively cultivate yours. Whether you want to make better introductions, build better social products and services, or activate networks to make an impact in the world, let me help you reach your goals.

You can find more about The Reliants Project here.