Fabian Pfortmüller on Why to Prioritize Community Trust Over Business Network Size

In Chapter 16 of 19 in his 2011 Capture Your Flag interview, community builder and entrepreneur Fabian Pfortmüller shares what he has learned by building the young professional Sandbox Network.  To create more effective network opportunities, Pfortmüller focuses on establishing trust within the community.  Whereas networks are more about adding contacts, Pfortmüller sees communities as platform to use trust and diversity to create foundation upon which to build out the network.  He also notes the power of informality and what it can do to close the gap between trusting communities and actionable networks.  Pfortmüller is co-founder of Sandbox Network (www.sandbox-network.com).  He also co-founded an innovation think tank, Incubaker (www.incubaker.com), and is part of the group's first spin-off, Holstee (www.holstee.com), an apparel brand for people who would like to wear their passion.  Pfortmüller graduated from Columbia University and its School of General Studies. 


Erik Michielsen: How can networking and community building improve?

Fabian Pfortmüller:  I believe that for me the two terms you said, networking and community building, there is a gap already. Because I feel that networking is about gathering contacts and community building, in the way that I understand it, is really about building a community. Now what does it mean to “build a community” I believe in an ideal form community building is about creating a family feeling and creating kind of trust between a somewhat random selection of people and I believe there’s a lot of improvement in a lot of communities to be done there because in the end it’s not about how many contacts you have and how far the network is, it is really how trusted it is and I always say the currency of networks and of communities is trust.

In an economy you pay yourself with money, in communities you pay yourself with trust and what do you do to help each other usually are introductions and I know you are a master of this and kind of helping each other out with introductions, that’s kind of the bill form or that’s one of the form of that currency of trust where you say ‘I spend some of that trust in connecting you two’ so I believe more focus on trust is very important. I believe that informality is a very important aspect. I believe that a lot of networks and communities have, have too formal procedures when in the end it’s about relationship building. Where build best relationships?

When you have a tie on and a big sticker on that says ‘Hey, I’m Fred? Or are… are you better to build relationships sitting on your couch with a beer in your hand? Obviously the later - the second one and knowing that why not implement it in community building? Another thing that I would say for communities to consider is diversity. I think there is a lot of value in having expert communities and you have fifty cup makers who come together and they exchange best practice.

Good, but I think the really good stuff happens in diverse groups and I think it’s proven that diverse groups tend to create better results and very often communities are not just about meeting like minded people but it’s really getting inspired and kind of personally developing and moving on, so less of a classical professional development but more of a personal development and for that I think diverse communities are a must.