To try to attempt to be a “solo” operator in today’s world is a defeating activity. The world it too interconnected for you to try to run your HR department, your company, your consultancy or your life without having a network to rely on. You need to build a network of remarkable people.
Many of you may think “I am already connected enough. I have 500 Linked In connections, 500 Facebook friends and I have 1500 people following me on Twitter. I don’t need to be any more connected.” The problem is these are connections and not a network of the sort I am writing about. In the book Thinking about the Future, edited by Andy Hines and Peter Bishop, they describe what they call a network of remarkable people as a necessary component to successfully doing visioning and strategic planning.
According to them remarkable people are “experts who have different perspectives, are skilled at challenging prevailing views, and are able to bring alternative interpretations to situations.” They are “often intellectual jack-of-all-trades who are skilled at bringing insight to practically any activity.” This is not your standard Linked In connection.
Personal brain trust
The network I am talking about is one you call on to generate a new idea, to break out of a rut, to have them challenge your way of thinking. These are the people you look to when your entire department or company is stuck in “group think” and what you have been doing is just not working. How do you get this “personal brain trust” you may ask? To be honest with you I am still developing my thoughts on this, but here is what I have so far:
- It starts with paying attention to what people are “saying.” This means you have to have some access to their blogs, their Twitter feeds, their articles, or published discussions. You have to pay attention to what others are saying about them.
- You have to engage them in conversation, whether it is in 140 character streams, responses or comments on blogs, or emails. Start an interaction.
- Look widely for these people. Don’t restrict yourself to your geography, time zone, industry or profession. Ignorance about your area may be to their advantage to challenge your assumptions.
- Be active in engaging them in conversation, but don’t make it a one-way street. Comment and react to things they are doing as well. Eventually this interaction will become accepted and expected.
- Once you have such a relationship established then acknowledge to them that they are one of your “go-to” sources and determine if they are comfortable with that relationship.
- If at all possible you may want to have an in person meeting, but in today’s world that may not be necessary. Virtual relationships can be quite effective.
Invest the time
The process I described will take some time. Just the searching for people who might be good to follow will take some effort. But you can also do it in small increments. As you read a book if the author is interesting seek them out in other places. If they mention someone whom they have trusted look that person up as well. This is not an overnight activity.
Developing this type of network is an ongoing activity that requires maintenance. But it can pay dividends that the local networking group may not. They just might provide you with some fresh thinking when it is needed the most.