Thank you for reading the blogs so far. Thank you again for your reactions, the comments, and the new connections. In this blog, I continue the description of my approach to innovation and the importance of the networking part.
First of all, I would like to share my opinion and definition of a network. It’s probably not going to be revolutionary, or shocking, but it is worth as a groundwork. To do so, let me take a step back, and travel in time to 2009 when my academic career finished. As most people coming from the research world, I didn’t know what networking meant during that part of my life. When you want to develop a career in research, the three most important things that you are taught to do are publish, publish and … publish. This is the holy grail of science, and the most direct way to a bright career, and a tenure position in an excellent university. I am pretty sure that networking also works in academic jobs. Still, we were not part of that elite yet, that could really make connections to change the aim of our journeys.
When I decided to change, I found myself utterly empty of ammunitions for the job-seeking part of the transition. I had a CV, a terrible one; I had my ego and my educational certificates. I had the teams I had been part of and sometimes led. I had many competences, but I didn’t know I possess them, and I didn’t know how to use them. I was wholly egocentric and entitled, I thought that I didn’t need any effort since I had my studies and my pleasant personality. Little I know what the journey looked like ahead of me. I was, and still am, an extroverted. In both senses. Someone who love to make new connections, talk, and listen, challenge my own social comfort zone. And the more psychological one, i.e. that I recharge by being with people rather than being by myself. Nevertheless, I found that I lacked the skills and the NETWORK to get meaningful and proactive conversations towards my new goal.
I must thank Elmar Scheuba (Elmar) my first mentor, that has shown me the importance and relevance of a network. He saw the potentials I had and the bright side of my hard and soft skills, and he noticed that I lacked the most crucial thing: connections. Having clicked “connect me” that day on, his LinkedIn profile changed my life. Thank you, Elmar!
Twelve years ago, I was not aware of the importance of a network and how it is conducive to the most important things happening around us and in life. Today I consider myself a well-networked person, with an ever-growing appetite to make more meaningful connections. These are important for my life, my happiness, and my innovative process. The pivotal moment was during the phase to find the first corporate job, with the help of Elmar, in which I started grasping the value and importance of the network. At first, mostly as a transactional means to an end. I was desperate after one year of job hunting, and the connections I was making were mainly with the intent to find a job, no matter what. I started very large and didn’t aim with a specific strategy. It was like shooting in the dark. I had no vision of what type of network I wanted. I had no skills. I didn’t understand what I was commencing to grow. Later, a few years ago, I started giving a more precise direction to my networking choices, but it all started very randomly. And I think there is a value to it, as in many innovation processes. Commencing large, with a divergent trajectory, to then close in a second phase, and shape it toward the goal.
The network is composed of all those nodes that float in the aggregation pond. My brain has a database of the people I have met and has a way to store the somewhat magic information. The people I know are associated with a mental TAG, that I sometimes applied willingly, and sometimes comes naturally with the person floating in the AP. The tag can be of various type, and multiple tags are obviously available and provide efficient connectivity. The tag can be like a friend, co-worker, engineer, farmer, courageous, calm, innovative, logic, etc. There are endless breadth and depth, and I cannot consciously control this process too much. Tags are handy when innovation takes place, as people of the most diverse type and location in the AP are put together. And these are the typical sparks of innovation, “aha moments”.
The beauty of the network is that it grows exponentially if the right mixture of values, vision and energy are committed to the game. The foundations are in the values, the willingness to create and expand the network, to be part of other systems, to provide value to the community. I certainly have specific persons that I want to connect for transactional purposes. Still, these are not those that will make me more creative and innovative. Nothing wrong with the transactional aspect, as long as there is clarity and a shared, short term goal. When there is love for co-creation, willingness to give (and not only take), pleasure for the progress of communities and society, that’s where the network will expand almost naturally. The more I connect to inspiring, innovative, creative individuals, the more I seem to meet new ones. I become a magnet that ultimately will spark more terrific ideas and more connections. It is the power of multiple individuals that goes beyond the bare sum, thanks to the coalescence of numerous AP. This is only possible if there is a commonality of values, a shared vision and if the network has been cultivated and maintained with the care, passion, and energy it deserves and requires.
To grow my network, I use a multitude of techniques and tools. All the social media are a potential source if used well, with a preference for those where real, long term, value-based connections are possible. Being a member of organizations and associations is another excellent starting point. Still, it dries off when I don’t put in the right amount of energy. Being connected and providing a healthy pond for my network is almost effortless when the foundations are correct. I don’t get in touch to keep my network healthy. I get in touch and keep my system healthy because it is part of my mission in life, and I cannot accomplish it alone. It is simply beautiful being connected, taking care of the network, and expanding it. It makes me more innovative and makes a contribution to my ecosystem while providing the joy of diverse encounters, meaningful discussions, and added value to all the contributors.
I follow some techniques that I recommend as a starting point, as they have a framework that can be useful to break the initial inertia. I personally think that after the first few steps, I have a better outcome and more fun by implementing my own strategy and technique. Always with my vision as a lighthouse providing me direction.
- The six-minute networking, by Jordan Harbinger; I also love his podcast
- THNK school on innovation, networking approach
I think that soon we will see more and more companies creating the role of CNO, Chief Networking Officer. It will be strongly intertwined with the CIO, Chief Innovation Officer, since more and more discoveries will come from open innovation.
In the next blog, I will share my process, view, and insight on the XQ, and how it ties the overall innovation together.
Goodbye, for now, World. Thank you very much for reading this fourth issue.
Have a safe, innovative week.