09/27/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

How to Win Friends and Influence People by Practicing Social Arbitrage

Friendship makes prosperity brighter. - Cicero

sharingglobeReal power comes from being indispensable. Indispensability comes from being a switchboard, parceling out as much information, contacts, and goodwill to as many people -- in as many different worlds -- as possible.

Engaging in this constant and open exchange of favors and intelligence is what I call social arbitrage. Think of well-executed social arbitrage as a sort of career karma. How much you give to the people you come into contact with determines how much you'll receive in return. In other words, if you want to make friends and get things done, you have to put yourself out to do things for other people -- things that require time, energy, and consideration.

Here's a few rules to become a master:
  1. Think of social arbitrage as a game. When someone mentions a problem, try to think of solutions. The solutions come from my experience and knowledge, and my tool kit of friends and associates. Think: How can my network help? It's a sort of ongoing puzzle, matching up the right people and the right opportunities.
  2. Just do it. Don't wait to be asked. People aren't used to looking for others for help, beyond a small circle, and usually either won't think of it or will be too polite to ask.
  3. Don't limit yourself to one clique. Make a point of knowing as many people from as many different professions and social groups as possible. The ability to bridge different worlds, and even different people within the same profession, is a key attribute in managers who are paid better and promoted faster.
  4. Become a knowledge broker. Knowledge is free -- it can be found in books, in articles, on the Internet, pretty much everywhere, and it's precious to everyone. Expertise will not only allow you to grow your connections, it helps you solve problems in situations where there's a gap in your network.
  5. Carpe Diem. When you see a way that someone else in your network can help a friend, don't wait. Pick up the phone mid-conversation to make the introduction -- "I'm here with my friend so-and-so and they need x and may call you, if it's alright" - then give your friend the information so they can follow up as they choose. Not only have you made it completely comfortable for them to reach out, you've also pinged someone else in your network -- double score.
Successfully connecting with others is never about simply getting what you want. It's about getting what you want and making sure that people who are important to you get what they want first -- and having fun while doing it.

Read more articles like this one at Keith Ferrazzi's blog.