Why is Networking Important?
In all areas of work, achieving exceptional results now depends on effective Networking. We define Networking as 'the human process that creates and maintains relationships based on trust, shared interests and common objectives'. Networking takes place at all levels, from individuals through groups, organisations and sectors to whole economies and between people working across functional and organisational interfaces.
Networking - critical at all levels from economies through sectors, organisations and groups to individuals.
These interfaces are exciting areas for boosting productivity and innovation. By building trust, Networking enables the exchange of high-value knowledge. Networking is adaptable, flexible, motivating, and well-suited to rapidly changing, complex environments.
Networking creates and maintains Networks. Valuable Networks are built using the energy and skills of individuals. Networks take on diverse forms - witness the rapid development of social networks such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Ecademy. While LinkedIn and Ecademy provide a structure for building and promoting an individual's on-line profile and brand, they operate informally, with only loose connections between the participants. While in some cases informality and lack of structure can be strengths, in many other cases they prevent Networks from realising their full value. Greater benefits can be secured by applying formal structural models, supported and animated by a Networking toolkit.
When well-implemented, Networks can complement or even replace traditional management structures, project teams, and stakeholder Committees and Panels. Our 'Structured Network' model offers a powerful 'organisational form' for greater efficiency and effectiveness.
We explore these themes in two articles:
- 'Get connected' explains how Networking can help to convert exemplary science into profitable business.
- 'Innovation by Networking' explains how Networks and Networking are critical to successful innovation across business functions.
Doesn't Networking Just Happen?
Everyone has some capability to Network with others, and we all recognise 'natural' Networkers. However, relying on innate capabilities:
- Fails to take Networking outside personal 'comfort zones'
- Does not engage all the individuals required for success
- Misses opportunities to create Networks of strategic value to an organisation
- Fails to maximise the value and effectiveness of existing Networks
- Can lead to 'natural' Networkers being overloaded with Networking responsibilities
Developing Networks is a particular challenge where individuals and groups have different reporting lines, working styles, values or cultures. Simply designing a Network is not enough. Success also depends on key individuals acquiring the skills to develop trusting relationships, and adopting and embedding practical working processes.
Networks used to be built through face-to-face meetings. Now, conferencing software enables real-time interaction across the globe without travel. E-mail has transformed data-sharing. Virtual social networks have made it far easier to keep in touch and make contacts. Mobile devices mean that we can do all this anywhere at any time. But technology alone is not enough. Our Structured Networking model delivers the intense, focused interaction, the shared commitments, and the co-creation activities, which are all critical to success.
Where is Networking Most Critical?
Networking and Networks have valuable applications at all levels - for clusters, sectors, organisations, groups and individuals. For example:
- Bringing together a cluster of organisations with diverse interests, priorities and values in a Structured Network to drive local economic development
- Creating a strategy for the future development of a specific sector, and mobilising this through a global or national Structured Network
- Facilitating dialogue and co-creation work on business performance and Corporate Social Responsibilitythrough a Structured Network encompassing customers, suppliers, partners, regulators, and policy-makers
- Using Structured Networks to build and sustain the processes and culture for collaboration and learning in complex organisations of any type
- Bringing diverse groups together within large organisations, involving external partners as necessary, todrive forward innovation in products, services or business processes
- Revitalising established group structures (e.g. departments, committees or panels) to align these with Network models and ways of working
- Developing the personal mindset and skills for effective Networking with diverse people in challenging contexts (e.g. in complex organisations, in areas of emerging science, or where there is political sensitivity)
- Identifying new career opportunities and making successful career changes by taking on the personal mindset and skills for effective Networking