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Wednesday, May 09, 2012

The Importance Of Networking

10:40 PM Posted by Deepak Nayal 3 comments
A few years ago if someone would have asked me about the single most important skill I wanted to possess, I would have [rather naively] said marketing or economics or finance. If asked that question again today, I will have to say it is networking. To know people, connect with them and establish rapport is way more important and useful in life than mastering Discounted Cash Flow Valuation, Maslow's hierarchy or the 4 Ps. I wish our education system had realized this too, though, it is still not too late. 

Networking with people is one of the most important and useful life skills one can have. And why is that? Because no one in this world has all the skills and the time to do everything. There will be many times in life (or in a single day for that matter) when you will need to get things done that are not in your control and for which you depend on others. This usually does not bother us, as our work environment shields us from the need to network by providing the required support structure to get our job done (unless you are in business development, though you still have the organization backing you). But step out of that support structure and you will realize the importance of building and managing a network. 

Now just to be clear, by networking I do not mean having 500+ connections on LinkedIn or having a similar number of friends on Facebook, and neither am I suggesting to go on a collect-as-many-business-cards-as-possible frenzy on social meet-ups. By networking I mean having real connections with people, to know more about them, and to connect with them occasionally if not regularly. Now if you can do that with all your 500+ connections on Facebook or LinkedIn, nothing like it!

Technology has come a long way in helping us network better. Research has proven that we do not have one big social network, but actually circles of network with the innermost ones being the strongest. That is where you have your best friends, and as you keep moving towards outer circles the ties keep weakening. In most cases we have a strong network with only 50 or so people, after which connections are more of acquaintances or less than that. Though, apparently, it is the people that we have weaker ties with that end up helping us more with professional activities. 

It is these circles of networks and their varying strength of ties that some social networking applications have been trying to leverage in order to position themselves differently. Path, for example, has been trying to leverage the strength of our inner network. Google+ literally has introduced the concept of circles in its app so that people can arrange their connections as per their choice, while others social apps usually mix all connections (strong or weak). Though, one thing common amongst all these social networking applications is that they are all about connecting with people we already know, and do not really help much reaching out to new ones. This is again where the debate of social versus interest graph comes in, and where interest graphs can be more effective. LinkedIn, Facebook and Google+ are pretty much based on social graph (though they have been trying to tap into interest graph). These applications might not be too helpful in connecting with new people, however, they can help us stay connected with our existing network. 

Even with all sorts of social networking apps around, we are still lacking applications that actually expand our inner circles by initiating online networking and then help in taking these relationships offline (into the real world). Probably a mashup of Facebook, Twitter and Meetup.com in future? But even with all the right technology and applications in the world, networking is a human thing. Our schools and colleges will have to realize the importance of such life skills and help students learn and leverage these. Our educational institutions should increase the emphasis on these skills and incorporate them in exercises and activities, because for most of us these life skills are going to be way more useful and important than Newton's laws on motion (no offense, Sir Issac).

3 comments:

  1. I think twitter is all about Interest graph and G+ is trying that as well. But the overwhelming success of FB shows that people inherently do not want to make special efforts to know people online for serious business. At least not till now. We are happy sharing with people we already know. As second part of your post describes, we still connect well with offline contacts better. Medium of contact could be online or offline.
    While we are on the topic of networking , how are you doing? whats new ?

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    1. I have been following activity on Twitter and Pinterest for quite some time now, and am really surprised with the way people are using it. FB with the current context cannot be used in the same way. Also, note that the topic of the blog is importance of networking, not what people are comfortable with. And based on what I have noticed, people do not generally use Facebook a lot for networking. In fact, Twitter seems to be a more popular networking tool.

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    2. Lots new going on! Lets catchup, offline ;-)

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