Networking outside of your standard professional networkbox makes you more creative. This is the conclusion of an international team of researchers, who has found that the ideas, insight and information you can get from contacts of contacts or other networks, boosts creativity and can be very valuable raw material to build on as well as a competitive advantage. This is Kristina Svensson’s take on cross-silo networking:
Generally we perceive networking as an activity to gain visibility and connections within your sector and region. For some people, meeting professionals who work in the same sector but at a different company can feel thrillingly audacious. However in reality, networking at its most effective will push you far out of your comfort zone and help you learn to connect with professionals or others who might be your polar opposite. Here are five important points to consider when networking:
1) Get fresh – really fresh – perspectives
We definitely do need support from our entourage on a regular basis to keep our motivation going. Nonetheless, to truly innovate and achieve excellence, it’s primordial to exchange with people who know little or nothing about your business, products, or services. Their perceptions might take you completely by surprise, not to mention that their expertise could provide you with a much-needed spark for a new idea.
2) Loyal New Customers Out of Left Field
Branching out and networking with professionals outside your comfort zone can superficially appear unproductive, but it could give you a very real competitive advantage. Say you are a website designer specialised in e-commerce. You might be reaching out to local clothing and accessory boutiques, but generally those are also the first to be solicited by your competitors. What if you reached out to a local bakery and proposed setting up an online system for large orders, e.g. delivering donuts or croissants to a corporation for a regional meeting? Or if you talked to a beauty spa about creating an online appointment system for them? Not only would you gain new expertise, but the new clients would most likely be quite loyal because you found a solution for them without them having to lift a finger.
3) Word Might Get Around
By having the courage to approach people outside of your usual region or sector, you also expand the number of people who will think and talk about you. That local bakery that you helped increase sales by 25% in one month? They will probably mention your skills to their friend in a city a couple hours away, who then in turns hires you to help them with their bakery. Networking with one new person outside your usual circle can translate over months to many, many new contacts in a short amount of time.
4) Someone Might Know Someone…
Imagine you are checking out the business networking app CityHour while visiting the other side of the country. Although you are an accountant, you see the profile of a startup entrepreneur who seems intriguing. When you meet up with them for coffee, they tell you their uncle’s company is looking for someone to do occasional due diligence. The company happens to be in your favourite seaside town. You just created your own serendipity.
5) … Or Maybe You Know Someone!
And what better way to solidify relationships you already have than by sharing your new contacts with them? One day you get an invitation to meet with a geologist. It’s so completely random because you own a skateboard shop, but whatever! You go anyway. Turns out that the geologist is looking for interns and you remember that your best supplier’s son just graduated from university and is looking for an internship in natural sciences. Bingo! Just got a 10% discount on your next order thanks to your openness and quick thinking.
It isn’t easy to get out of your box and challenge yourself, but try and have a broader vision of how we relate to others. Being more creative and generous with that creativity is the best way to boost your career and thankfully it requires virtually no investment of time and money. Give and you shall receive…
By Kristina Svensson, October 2015
As a project manager, Kristina Svensson facilitates the collaboration of people from different sectors, markets and mind-sets. “Project management isn’t just my occupation, it’s my raison d’être.”