Conventional wisdom is true: “It matters who you know.” At least, when it comes to progressing in our professional career, entrepreneurship and, really, anything. However, although no one doubts the importance of networking and contacts, many focus on creating the wrong networks. At least, according to the curious data of some little-known studies.
It is obvious that not all networks of contacts are the same and that the more powerful, the better, since we are talking about the real world. But that may not be the main factor to consider.
Therefore, I would like to share what is the type of network of contacts that, according to the data, those who are most successful tend to have.
The curious studies on types of networks and professional success
We will not get far in our career or business if we are alone. People have always achieved what is important through the power of the group, so it is natural to weave alliances and contacts for mutual help.
The networks provide power, information, and access to skills and resources.
However, even if conventional wisdom was right at the beginning of the article, the type of networks that will benefit us the most may not be so intuitive. We usually look for powerful people in the events of networkingsimilar to us and ideally the “main players” in our sector.
but do just that can hinder our progress.
Brian Uzzi is a professor and researcher at the Kellogg School of Management in Evanston. He has dedicated a good part of his professional life to studying the networking and, in fact, he teaches some classes about it with quite a reputation.
In them, he usually explains that there are two types of contact networks:
- closed networks. The most common, homogeneous networks where almost everyone knows each otheris within the same sector or, at most, related sectors, with people with similar responsibilities, positions, ideas and concerns.
- open networks. Heterogeneous networks, where not everyone knows each other, but there are certain people who know almost everyone or, at least, the door to knock on to reach anyone on the network (as we will see, this will be important). In them we find different sectors, different ideologies, different concerns, experiences and knowledge. Networks that connect bankers with artists, computer scientists, entrepreneurs and professionals from very different activities and strata.
Even when the weight of other possible factors in the data are taken into account, the networking of this type remains key.
Leaving the realm of economics and business (who would say that life is more than money), the sociologist Randall Collins, in his phenomenal 1998 book, The sociology of philosophieson innovations in science, art, and philosophy, demonstrated something along the same lines.
The advances of titans like Freud, Picasso or Pythagoras were largely a consequence of this particular type of personal networkwhich fueled exceptional individual creativity.
Why open networks favor success
- Generate more innovation. Seeing ourselves exposed to more experience and different ideas, which can be the spark that ignites what we need (many innovations usually come from ideas from other sectors applied and adapted to ours).
- Give access to a greater variety of resources, skills, people and forms of power.
- We make better decisions. By not seeing the world from an ivory tower, which only has one perspective and is full of people who only see the same thing as us. Open networks allow us to better contemplate reality. A house can look white from where we are and make decisions about it, but whoever is on the other side may see that the back is black and we are going to screw up.
- It makes us more open-minded. The only way to fit new and better ideas.
In other words, just like in biology, inbreeding in the networking weakens us.
Why we do the networking that least favors us
The problem with open networks is that they go against the natural inclination we have in the networking of any type: to form homogeneous groups of people who think like us, are dedicated to something similar and belong to a similar economic level.
In fact, Paul Ingram and Michael Morris of Columbia University studied the phenomenon live, analyzing an event of networking with about 100 executives from very different fields and seeing what the social dynamics that were taking place were. Effectively, inbreeding and looking for similarities was the dominant trend. Investment bankers were looking for other bankers, etc.
It is pure human nature because we feel comfortable there, we agree, the fault always lies with “the others” and we are blind to the fact that it blinds us.
Now that the term is so fashionable, exacerbated by algorithms and social networks, we tend to barricade ourselves in echo chambers full of clones. But the answer of networkingif we want to have more chances of success, it seems to be the opposite.
However, there is something else we need to know.
The importance of position within an open network
The first piece of the puzzle is knowing which network we should build, but the other, just as important, is the position that we must acquire in that open network of contacts.
And I don’t mean to be at the top, but to be in the center of the different mini-networks of equals that make up an open network of different. In other words, we must be the connecting link, the one that keeps the great heterogeneous network together.
Or, as the technical terms of the previous studies say, be the broker of information, the glue of that network where not everyone knows each other, but you do know almost everyone or have access, being able to present and unite whoever is needed, however different they may be.
Interestingly, when studying many open networks, those brokers do not usually hold the highest positions of formal power.
What if we’re not the brokerhow can we quickly approach that position?
identifying those brokers of our network and connecting more deeply with them, to also acquire their union links. That is, the paths that give us the ability to reach all doors.
Being in the central nodes of that open network puts us again in an awkward position, being often exposed to contrary opinions and different views. It is more placid to be at one end of the structure, surrounded by the most similar. But if we want to maximize the benefit (and I am not referring only to economic or professional benefits, but also to personal enrichment, which each one will give as much importance as they deem appropriate), that is the position, the middle one, not the top one.
The ideas arise in the friction and the confrontation, not in the comfort in which we are not challenged in opinions or situations. There is no incentive to move in any direction, innovate or seek solutions.
How to diagnose our own network of contacts
People believe that these things are what always affect others, but we do not fall into closed networks, although Ingram and Morris showed that we cannot avoid it.
That’s why it’s hard objectively quantify if our network is too closedbut she’s curious conclusion of the analyzes of the Harvard Business Review it can help:
If you have introduced yourself to your key contacts more than 65% of the time, your network may be too inbred.
The premise of the studies is clear, we need to create contacts, but not all networks are the same. Know which doors to knock on, place ourselves in the center of all of them and that those doors are very differentthat is the key networking what we must do if we want to increase the chances of success and advancement.
Source: El Blog Salmón by www.elblogsalmon.com.
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