thinkAbout 2011 - Property of Strategic Horizons LLP

Each year about a hundred gather for the annual Pine & Gilmore thinkAbout.  They spend 2-days thinking about the evolving experience-based economy and how to help their businesses or clients fully engage.  Part of the success of this event is its open structure.  Everyone who attends is there to engage and think … no passive participants allowed.

There is a magic that comes when you connect and think with others.  Tom Rath pointed this out in his 2006 book, Vital Friends: The people you can’t afford to live without.  (Also available at

The book’s premise is that you need others in order to be successful. The book uses the term Vital Friends to distinguish them from the Facebook variety.  Although it focuses on the friendships that develop in the workplace, he also spends time talking about regular friendships outside of work.  He defines a vital friend as “someone who measurably improves your life” or “a person at work or in your personal life whom you can’t afford to live without.”

Rath uses a series of litmus test questions to help you determine who among your friends are vital friends.

  • If this person were no longer around, would your overall satisfaction with life decrease?
  • If this person were no longer a part of your life, would your achievement or engagement at work or in life decrease?

It makes you think about the friends you have.

The Gallop organization has spent the last couple of decades studying the impact of friends. They show that people with at least three close friends at work are 96% more likely to be extremely satisfied with their life.  Rath tells us why.  He points out that friendships are not designed to be well-rounded.  Each relationship provides something different.  He discusses the 8 Vital Friends we all need: Builder, Champion, Collaborator, Companion, Connector, Energizer, Mind Opener, and Navigator.

Back to why the Pine & Gilmore thinkAbout works … it connects friends.  It is assumed that you will be one of the 8 types of vital friends to someone.

The challenge to all of us is that we spend nearly one-third of our time with friends in our teenage years, and that for the rest of our lives, the average time spent with friends is less than ten percent.  Probably not a good thing.  So …

Who do you think with?

Who are your vital friends?