Tuesday 8 September 2015

Why do people network?

There can be many reasons why people network, but there always has to be a "What's in it for me".

Image from commons.wikimedia.org
Here is a quote from a community of practice leader I used to work with.

"...people do not network (using a noun as a verb, here) without very good reason. Certainly they may have common interests, or even needs, but this is not sufficient. What they also need is the belief that there is something in it for them, to make it worth their while participating. This could be things like getting direct help with problem-solving on their own projects; learning about similar problems to their own in the hope of inspiration; getting satisfaction from helping others; or generally getting to be known around the company as a learned, wise and helpful expert. You may well be able to think of other reasons."

In this context, we are talking not about any old networking - networking on Linkedin to find a job for example, or social networking on Facebook to keep in touch with friends. We are talking about communities of practice, where the purpose of networking is to exchange and find knowledge about our area of practice.

The quote makes reference to three important "What's in it for me" propositions;

  • The community member can get direct help in solving their problems, by asking questions for others to supply solutions
  • The community member can gain inspiration and new ways of looking at their work by observing the conversations within the community
  • The community member can gain status by answering questions and providing inspiration.

The first two are value propositions for everyone but particularly for the less experienced members, while the last value proposition is mainly for those with experience. The junior staff should see networking as a valuable tool in helping them perform. The senior staff should see it as part of their responsibility, and a way to raise profile.

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