The global influence of LinkedIn

Already in the 1960s, more than 40 years ago, a scientific, mathematical study was made of social networks. Professor Stanley Milgram of Harvard university, well known for his experiments on subjects who had to give people unknown to them an electric shock, announced in 1967 the so-called “Small World Experiment”. He established that there was a maximum number of six links between two random Americans. This phenomenon is better known at the “Six Degrees of Separation”. In 2001 Duncan Watts of Columbia University repeated Milgram’s experiment and discovered that the chain between two unknown Americans had dropped to a maximum of 4.6 links. The continuous development of communication technology, in particular mobile telephones and internet, have ensured that people know a disproportionate number of people than the  growth in population can account for.

Social networking on internet, such as Facebook worldwide and Hyves in the Netherlands, are important phenomenon for people around the world. But personally LinkedIn means much more to me. This internet application which originated in the USA has been online since May 2003. I was invited to become a member of this free social network in 2005 by a business relation. Very quickly I invited other business contacts to join; I immediately got my first online recommendations. This network was also very handy when I set up my own media company: Within a month I found my first employee, an account manager who ten years previously had worked for the same employer as me.

The linking with and searching for acquaintances was an interesting exercise. For me, the fundamental breakthrough came in 2006. That year, after many months of emailing to the developers of LinkedIn in the USA, I got permission as one of the first people in the world to set up my own interest  group which was not affiliated to a company or institution. As publisher and chief editor of Supply Chain Magazine I started the international group, Supply Chain Movement. Professionals from around the world who are employed in Supply Chain Management, coordination of planning, purchasing, production and distribution in industry, wholesale and retail, signed up. The group now comprises more than 12,000 members from all around the world.

The interesting thing about the LinkedIn group is that the members can start discussions and talk with each other.  Members can also place job vacancies. As owner of the group I don’t need to do very much. Just post a pithy argument every now and the discussion starts by itself.  And for the last  year an administrator of LinkedIn can set up sub-groups. Members of the ever  expanding group can subscribe to a specific subject or branch to exchange knowledge with like-minded specialists.

The mission of my own company, Supply Chain Media, is to bring supply chain professionals from around the world in contact with each other to share knowledge via different communication channels. With the arrival and the success of LinkedIn this rather megalomaniac mission has become a reality. It’s a small world after all.

Martijn Lofvers, Publishing Director & Chief Editor, Supply Chain Magazine