How to Have A Great Network

What is more important in genius: ability or the team you have?

Most of us are inclined to say ability – and according to Walter Isaacson, biographer of geniuses like Steve Jobs and Benjamin Franklin, talent is certainly a crucial ingredient in innovation. But it’s important not to discount the power of teams.

At the World Business Forum in New York last week, Isaacson told the story of a young man in Iowa who could have created an amazing computer. The world’s first! But he didn’t, primarily because he was a loner and not willing to share credit with others. Decades after this man’s work, 85 people took that man’s research and successfully created the world’s first computer.

The lesson here? We imagine the next big thing being dreamed up by a loner in a garage, but that’s generally not the case. Instead, ideas are dreamed up by good teams who rub up against each other and share ideas.

Like Isaacson said, “Creativity is not just a team sport; it’s a contact sport.”

Your network doesn’t just play a role in the innovations you create. It’s also crucial in how well you need.

According to Herminia Ibarra, author of Act Like A Leader, Think Like a Leader, there are two types of leaders: bridges and hubs.

Hubs are centers of the action. They’re the ones who set goals, bring teams together and manage performances. Sometimes, it’s great to be a hub. But a lot of times, it’s more important to be a bridge. Bridges act like pins between their team and anything else that’s relevant in the ecosystem. Bridges import resources and information, and exporting talent that needs to be placed in bigger assignments.

When you’re a bridge, you get your team exposure to other people and ways of thinking, which helps your team thrive and lets you develop the vision that’s crucial to leadership. But in order to be a bridge, you have to improve your network. Ibarra recommends a few simple ways to do that.

  • Get over it. Lots of us refuse to network, even though we know it’s important, because it feels so sleazy. If this is you, get over it! One way to do that is by following Ibarra’s policy of “act then think.” Pretend you’re playing a role – and if it doesn’t feel right, you don’t have to commit to it.
  • Expand your activities. Human beings are fundamentally narcissistic – we like hanging out with people who are just like us. Unfortunately, that doesn’t expose you to foreign ideas. So it’s crucial to do new and interesting things where you can meet new and interesting people! By new and interesting, we mean people who are of a different race, gender and age than you or who are in different industries. And remember, you don’t have to be best friends! In fact, networks with weak ties are better for your leadership skills than networks with really strong close ones.
  • Follow up. Just as humans are fundamentally narcisstic, we’re also fundamentally lazy. We’re most likely to become friends with someone who we have easy access to. So it’s crucial not to let your relationship end with an exchange of business cards — that’s where the relationship starts. In other words, ALWAYS follow up.

Liked this? Check out 3 Simple Ways to Become A Better Giver!

Written by Sasha Graffagna

What is more important in genius: ability or the team you have?

Most of us are inclined to say ability – and according to Walter Isaacson, biographer of geniuses like Steve Jobs and Benjamin Franklin, talent is certainly a crucial ingredient in innovation. But it’s important not to discount the power of teams.

At the World Business Forum in New York last week, Isaacson told the story of a young man in Iowa who could have created an amazing computer. The world’s first! But he didn’t, primarily because he was a loner and not willing to share credit with others. Decades after this man’s work, 85 people took that man’s research and successfully created the world’s first computer.

The lesson here? We imagine the next big thing being dreamed up by a loner in a garage, but that’s generally not the case. Instead, ideas are dreamed up by good teams who rub up against each other and share ideas.

Like Isaacson said, “Creativity is not just a team sport; it’s a contact sport.”

Your network doesn’t just play a role in the innovations you create. It’s also crucial in how well you need.

According to Herminia Ibarra, author of Act Like A Leader, Think Like a Leader, there are two types of leaders: bridges and hubs.

Hubs are centers of the action. They’re the ones who set goals, bring teams together and manage performances. Sometimes, it’s great to be a hub. But a lot of times, it’s more important to be a bridge. Bridges act like pins between their team and anything else that’s relevant in the ecosystem. Bridges import resources and information, and exporting talent that needs to be placed in bigger assignments.

When you’re a bridge, you get your team exposure to other people and ways of thinking, which helps your team thrive and lets you develop the vision that’s crucial to leadership. But in order to be a bridge, you have to improve your network. Ibarra recommends a few simple ways to do that.

  • Get over it. Lots of us refuse to network, even though we know it’s important, because it feels so sleazy. If this is you, get over it! One way to do that is by following Ibarra’s policy of “act then think.” Pretend you’re playing a role – and if it doesn’t feel right, you don’t have to commit to it.
  • Expand your activities. Human beings are fundamentally narcissistic – we like hanging out with people who are just like us. Unfortunately, that doesn’t expose you to foreign ideas. So it’s crucial to do new and interesting things where you can meet new and interesting people! By new and interesting, we mean people who are of a different race, gender and age than you or who are in different industries. And remember, you don’t have to be best friends! In fact, networks with weak ties are better for your leadership skills than networks with really strong close ones.
  • Follow up. Just as humans are fundamentally narcisstic, we’re also fundamentally lazy. We’re most likely to become friends with someone who we have easy access to. So it’s crucial not to let your relationship end with an exchange of business cards — that’s where the relationship starts. In other words, ALWAYS follow up.

Liked this? Check out 3 Simple Ways to Become A Better Giver!

Written by Sasha Graffagna

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