The Role of a Maven

When I first read the description of a "maven" in Malcolm Gladwell's book, The Tipping Point, I instantly identified with the characteristics (in my words): a kind of person that collects information, details or knowledge of topics of interest, and naturally offers it to anyone that is interested. In other words, usually a sort of expert in a given topic area, but especially one who wants to share their expertise.

Gladwell points to the maven as one of three types of people that are essential to the viral spreading of any idea. Mavens tend to rave to others about their topics of passion, but always providing lots of meaningful details in the process.

A few years ago (circa 1998), when I was writing my "governing values" (a Franklin Covey concept from Hyrum W. Smith's 10 Natural Laws of Successful Time and Life Management), I wrote these statements, that are still meaningful today and still reflect a core part of my personality:

I develop a lifestyle that solves problems.

and

I try new things. I brainstorm often. I impact other people with ideas and solutions to problems.

and

I stockpile ideas that are useful and helpful.
I share my wealth of knowledge with others in ways that improve the way they live.

I find myself naturally drawn to share my knowledge with other people. Maybe it's a source of selfish pride, but I get great satisfaction out of introducing someone to new information that changes their perspective or helps them accomplish a goal!

Exercising the Maven Role

I had the opportunity to act in the role of maven with some friends of mine yesterday. I was guiding them through many of the products, tools, and services related social networking, "new media," and collaboration. We talked about wikis, Facebook, social bookmarking on Delicious.com, document collaboration using Google Docs & Spreadsheets, and using RSS to build custom information feeds--all to achieve a shared goal. It was exciting and envigorating!

"True" Consultants as Mavens?

In some ways, I think a true consultant (in any field), is at least, to some degree, a maven. In modern consulting, especially in staff augmentation "body shops," this is no longer the norm; however, true professionals and, for that matter, craftsmen have this trait.

Bloggers as Mavens?

Some bloggers (but definitely not all) take on the role of maven when they publish helpful information around their topics of interest and expertise. This is one of the major things that drew me to blogging when I first started (circa 2002), and it continues to motivate me to blog and reading the blogs of others.

I would venture to say that the blogs that I read are largely all by mavens. It is a major source of the information that I also choose to pass along to others.

Keep in mind, however, that being a blogger does not automatically qualify you as a maven. Describing what your cat ate for breakfast or other such drivel does not count.

Additional Resources

If you would like to read more about the meaning and usage of the term "maven," WikiPedia has some great information about mavens.

Feedback

Do you think it is arrogant to consider oneself a maven? Have you met any individuals you consider to be mavens? Have you seen or heard the term applied to people in regards to a particular subject?

Leave a comment and let me know what you think.

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