Networking. Building relationships that help you get things done.
There are a broad range of responses to the idea of networking. These range from passion, to indifference, to uncertainty and even discomfort. There’s a way to think about networking that makes it an easier more enjoyable activity for everyone on this spectrum.
Rather than imagining yourself networking, is it possible to picture yourself out there building a community?
What does it mean to build a community and why is this a good idea?
Firstly, your concept of ‘networking’ might need to be refreshed. Any given word represents a diverse range of experiences that we associate with that word. Every time you end up stuck in a painful scenario that you have called ‘networking’ (or even think about such a scenario and associate it with ‘networking’) then you are building an association that makes you tight and uncomfortable and therefore less likely to ‘connect’ with a person you are meeting for the first time. (This also works the other way, if you have good associations with a word…)
So let’s make this easier. Lets replace ‘networking’ and with the idea of building ‘communities’. How does this help? Well, for a start it’s a better way to describe what you are heading out to do.
‘Networks’ have a primary focus of moving information from one place to another (think of computers connected on the internet…). This is a very useful thing, but I’m guessing you want to meet other people in order to do more than exchange some raw data. When human beings share information they are generally curios about how that information can be interpreted and applied. What has been done with this idea? What could be done? How does it impact upon the things that I am doing? Human beings are not just points in space that exchange data they are living beings that turn information into ideas, ideas into experiences, experiences into knowledge and knowledge into stories. And they do all of this by building communities (not networks). Communities solve problems by developing mutually beneficial relationships between people who have a common vision or goal. (They also do many other things like create rituals, take care of each other…)
So, if you can stretch your mind around this idea then the new way is to let go of ‘networking’ as a goal and start building yourself a community.
It’s very straightforward. Think of a problem you want to solve, find people you get along with ask them if they know anything or anyone that could help you solve the problem. This works as well if you focus on your passion or interests rather than a problem, the ‘problem’ just makes it easier to get other people on board.
‘Ok great! But how will that help me when I’m anxious in the foyer at a conference?’…
Well…that’s an excellent question and building the skills to confidently communicate about your idea is the next step. It may also have to be an article for another time…
Luke Hockley is a performer, consultant, teacher and artist who’s strengths are his ability to find the real problem, to make complex things easy to understand and to tell a great story. He helps people who contribute to a better world become compelling communicators.
Check out more stories in the category: Knowledge Bank