I receive many questions about “networking”.
How can we make good use of our network?
What’s the best way to connect?
What makes connecting an experience that leaves us happy and satisfied?
One of the fundamental misconceptions about networking is on its very purpose. Many if not most of us think networking is about “asking”, “exploiting” our relationships. At times we think we want to network in order to receive a benefit, we want to ask favors from our network.
This very purpose is flawed.
Networking is about giving.
We give and receive happiness through giving to people we like and trust. Networking is always about what I can do for my network rather than about what my network can do for me.
How can I help people get better, happier, more satisfied?
Good networking is like sowing seeds. When we sow seeds, we don’t know whether nor do we know where they will turn into plants and fruits. Yet we know that the more openly we will be sowing seeds, the more openly we will reap rewards in return.
We won’t know where, nor when: the fruits of networking happens through “obliquity” and “black swans”.
Black Swans (…) are large-scale unpredictable and irregular events of massive consequence—unpredicted by a certain observer.
Nassim N. Taleb, “Antifragile, Things that Gain from Disorder, Prologue, 2012.
Black Swans can be negative as well as they can be positive. Limiting the exposure to negative Black Swans and increasing our exposure to positive Black Swans is the challenge, then.
John Kay describes obliquity as follows:
If you want to go in one direction, the best route may involve going in another. This is the concept of ‘obliquity’: paradoxical as it sounds, many goals are more likely to be achieved when pursued indirectly. Whether overcoming geographical obstacles, winning decisive battles or meeting sales targets, history shows us that oblique approaches are the most successful, especially in difficult terrain.
Obliquity implies that future opportunities can best be pursued indirectly. Black Swans imply that the only safe thing we know about our next occasion of happiness is that we don’t know what it is going to be.
Here are a few of the things I do when I want to make good use of my network:
- write a letter to a friend or to someone in my network, just a note, a quick note, maybe a “thank you” note after a lunch together. Perhaps something else, yet something worth putting my handwriting on paper. This gives me an opportunity to reconsider that specific relationship, to enjoy the very fact that this person is part of my network;
- consider something positive about someone I like in my network and call that person, write her an email, or maybe even just use Twitter or Facebook to show my positive feeling of appreciation about some achievement or some quality that the person has. This is another easy way for me to benefit from reconsidering and nurturing a relationship I have with someone. At the same time, this helps me connect with that person, help them realise how I appreciate some positive things about them;
- build a bridge across two people I like: I might simply decide that I want to help two people in my network connect. This is one of the most fundamental things one can do the network. Bringing two people together, creating bridges across them is a great way of nurturing the network. But let’s be careful: this does not happen as a result of someone asking. This happens as a result of my desire to give. For them, for the two people I have helped connect, it equals to receiving, yet not because they asked. Rather, just because they are part of a network where someone gives.
I have noticed this already: the wiser we are in connecting with people we like, the more will we be exposed to positive (and oblique) Black Swans. That person we like, whom we regularly talk to, seek advice and inspiration from, at a given, unexpected moment will come out with that fantastic thought, with that inspiring question, which will lead to our next opportunity, perhaps to our next job.
There’s no predictable limit to the power of relationship, the power of connecting wisely.