The Rolodex Paradox
Staying Top of Mind
In today’s business world, it’s becoming harder to maintain a warm connection with every professional around us. Given the volume of people we meet every day over Zoom and coffee, it isn’t an easy task. To solve this problem, many professionals choose to pick up a personal CRM like Clay, Dex, Covve, and UpHabit.
The last 50 years of innovation have made it a bit easier for us to be more conscientious about building professional relationships. It started with a simple index card rolodex created by David Rockefeller, a veteran chief executive and philanthropist. Each of his 3-by-5-inch index cards recorded contact information along with every meeting with a single person.
“Even if Mr. Rockefeller hadn’t seen someone for years, ‘he was able to pick up as though he had seen you the week before,’ said James Wolfensohn, a friend and former World Bank president who was introduced while a Harvard M.B.A. student in 1959. ‘It was because of this extraordinary record system.’’’— Joann S. Lublin
As the world transitioned from analog to the Digital Age, we took the index card and digitized them, evolved them into spreadsheets, and spawned a wave of personal CRM solutions. Across all of these new products, the relationship management process remains unchanged: create a contact for the person you met, add some notes, create a reminder to catch up, and repeat. And this lack of change makes the process ill-equipped to handle the new ways people connect and nurture connections today.
“In the Analog Age, we understood that the dial had to be jiggled, that reception would fade, that wrong numbers happened even when you dialed carefully. In the Digital Age, nobody has any patience with variation or error.” — Sonny Scott
People have attempted to solve the personal relationship management problem for years and this is what I’ve observed:
We hate manual data entry and what’s out there isn’t making it easier.
As our generation becomes lazier and more distracted than ever before, productivity mechanisms are baked into every app and appliance we use today. However, productivity is only as good as the effort you put in. This is true for personal CRMs and offloading information about your interactions throughout the day is a hassle. A user shouldn’t be bothered with having to manually add contact information, social links, and meeting times. Rather, automate this step and direct their focus on how they are going to stay in touch with that person.
The bottom 90% of your rolodex are where they are for a reason, it’s subconscious.
We connect with tons of people every single day. People feel an internal burden after forgetting to add this meeting to their rolodex or reach out to this person after getting reminded. Mentally, you punish yourself for not performing this action and compensate by procrastinating (e.g., reset your reminder or put the meeting note on your to-do list). The reality is that if this person or meeting was important enough to you, you would act right away because it matters enough to you. Scrolling through your list of contacts every day is really just a mindless distraction unless there is a particular kind of objective you are looking to fulfill. You know what you are looking for, so it should be as easy as typing in “Lakers fan” and finding the specific people you are looking for.
Strictly professional relationships don’t last long, being thoughtful became a whole lot easier.
There’s an abundance of mediums for creating connections with other like-minded professionals. LinkedIn for a professional community, Twitter for more personal expression of thought, Medium for sharing dynamic thinking, and Zoom, Gmail, and Google Calendar for communication and scheduling. Consuming these platforms daily leads to an exponentially growing rolodex, which becomes extremely difficult to manage. Touchpoints with another person are no longer just phone calls and in-person meetings; they include viewing, liking, sharing, commenting, and messaging.
“I believe vigorous reactions to content moderation, and increasingly pervasive tribalism will lead to a new generation of social networks. I expect us to move into an era where our collective attention is splintered across numerous platforms, each catering to distinct systems of belief and shared interests. We have seen an early glimpse of this evolution…, and I believe we are in the early innings of this fragmentation.” — Andy Kangpan
You simply can’t solve a new problem with a legacy solution.
Like many others, I grew impatient waiting for someone to actually solve these problems. I wanted something that focused on:
understanding what you already consume day to day, whether that is browsing, scrolling, reading, or reacting,
identifying who’s in your top of mind, using contextual relevance and hiding away the rest distraction-free, and
unveiling low-risk thoughtful touchpoints you can execute with someone, like sharing an article that combines personal and professional interests.
Now, right here is where I would’ve put that “Ripplink is the solution we built to solve this;” however, that is no longer the case. Throughout building the product, we realized we couldn’t solve relationship management entirely with one single, super product. Every single customer’s use case was deeply connected to both their every needs and habits, which come with infinite combinations.
Today, I do believe that the CRM space is still in need of major disruption, and I’ll be forever on the hunt for the one that hits the bullseye. So, if you think you are getting close to the target, let’s chat!