Bhoo wears the thinking cap!

As if that is possible!

How do you grow your network?

Posted by bhoo on October 23, 2006

Yesterday, I went to a get-together organized by our investment consultant.  I was awed, to say the least.  It was an array of movers and shakers of the city, who attended this event.

Obviously, the interest from each of them was more from a personal/professional network perspective, rather than from a professional interest perspective, I imagined.

I set out to understand what made them all come there…I was doing a dipstick survey and found that it was sheer personal and professional network that these individuals who run the show at this “boutique” investment firm have developed over years.  I have been thinking about how they are able to build such a network, and here are some of the answers that I found:

— Keep in ardent touch with old classmates / colleagues of yours.  This is good, not just for building your network, but also to have a personally fulfilling life.  I was talking with my classmate / colleague, Subburathinam on this, and he was agreeing that the level of comfort with old friends is hardly possible to come with new contacts.
— Take the relationship beyond individuals – take it to family / your friends’ businesses.
— Meet the people without purpose.  This sounds difficult for us – the “non-networking” types.  We keep asking ourselves internally on “how can we make courtesy visits to customers again and again?  How does it become attractive for them to meet us?”.  In reality, people seem to be more interested in non-purposeful meetings than purposeful meetings, unless the “purpose” is of immediate use to their day-to-day lives.
— Keep a genuine interest on other’s agenda.  Find out the good qualities and ambitions of your contacts, and tell them that you know and recognize those.
— Network among networks.  Once you do all of the above, you know who can do what for someone in your friends’ circle.  Take pains to introduce each other, and let them transact with each other for their own benefits.

These are some of the things that I learnt.

Harvard Business Review Article says this about personal networking:

Many sensational ideas have faded away into obscurity because they failed to reach the right people. A strong personal network, however, can launch a burgeoning plan into the limelight by delivering private information, access to diverse skill sets, and power. Most executives know that they need to learn about the best ideas and that, in turn, their best ideas must be heard by the rest of the world. But strong personal networks don’t just happen around a water cooler or at reunions with old college friends. As Brian Uzzi and Shannon Dunlap explain, networks have to be carefully constructed through relatively high-stakes activities that bring you into contact with a diverse group of people. Most personal networks are highly clustered–that is, your friends are likely to be friends with one another as well. And, if you made those friends by introducing yourself to them, the chances are high that their experiences and perspectives echo your own. Because ideas generated within this type of network circulate among the same people with shared views, a potential winner can wither away and die if no one in the group has what it takes to bring that idea to fruition. But what if someone within that cluster knows someone else who belongs to a whole different group? That connection, formed by an information broker, can expose your idea to a new world, filled with fresh opportunities for success. Diversity makes the difference. Uzzi and Dunlap show you how to assess what kind of network you currently have, helping you to identify your superconnectors and demonstrating how you act as an information broker for others. They then explain how to diversify your contacts through shared activities and how to manage your new, more potent  network.
I also found this blog interesting, on the same subject, but a completely different take of “branding to build personal network“. 

“It has been said, “You are only as strong as your Rolodex”, claims John L Bennett, in his book: “The Essential Network: Success Through Personal Connections”

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One Response to “How do you grow your network?”

  1. The best advice on networking I have read comes from Ford Harding’s “Rain Making”
    (http://www.amazon.com/Rain-Making-Professionals-Attracting-Clients/dp/1558504206/ )
    in particular pages 44-59 have some very good “Rules of Thumb” for networking:

    * Networking is helping people
    * You must learn to recognize a lead for someone else when you hear it
    * Networking is a sincere effort rather than keeping score
    * Networking is a sense of urgency and obligation
    * Networking is showing gratitude
    * Networking is maintaining trust
    * Networking requires you to spend some of your time selling other firm's
    products and services.
    * You must selective in who you partner with as these are a serious
    investment of time.
    * Motivation is critical ingredient in effective networking.

    Harding has a second book called “Creating Rainmakers” which may be as useful to you in your professional role and a blog here: http://www.hardingco.com/blog/

    For a profile of a very effective networker see “Six Degrees of Lois Weisberg”
    by Malcolm Gladwell at http://www.gladwell.com/1999/1999_01_11_a_weisberg.htm

    One of the secrets to navigating Silicon Valley, is that it’s actually a very small place with many connections, some take a while to discover are nonetheless quite potent. That being said the single most important thing to avoid is wasting people’s time. Time is more scarce than capital, technology, or knowledge.

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