Networking for ideas with diverse individuals to get different perspectives is a key behavior of successful innovators. How can you become a better networker?
- A third behavior that we have found is really important for triggering new ideas is networking and talking to people with diverse backgrounds and perspectives. Now, some people I've talked to say to me, you know, I'm a pretty good networker, but I don't think I'm very innovative. So, how come? And the answer is that there's really two different types of networking that folks do. One is what we call resource networking. In other words, you've got something you need to implement, you need the resources to get it done, and so you go to folks that have those resources.
You try to get them to try and execute on the plan. That's different than idea networking. We are very explicit in the book that innovators that we studied networked for ideas. They may have networked for resources as well, but, really, ideas was the focus. Let me give you an example. We talked to Peter Thiel, one of the co-founders of PayPal, and Max Levchin, another co-founder. Peter Thiel says, "We met at an encryption technology seminar at Stanford." He said, "It actually wasn't that hard to meet, "there were only six people at the seminar." But Peter said, "I was into financial services "and thinking about how do we protect financial information.
"Max Levchin was actually, really, "a encryption technology guy "and was kind of interested in creating a digital wallet." Well he said, "Those early conversations, "for meeting at that particular seminar, "led to the idea that maybe "we could beam money, "securely to other people, "and people would want this service." In fact, you know, they really thought, if we could attach money to an email and you could basically email the money, that would be really cool, and if you could do it securely, that could be a really valuable business and be very disruptive to the banking industry.
So, the key to being successful getting new ideas through networking is talking to people that have different ideas, different backgrounds, and bringing your background with their background together to focus on, perhaps, a common problem is a way to come up with, really, a new way to solve the problem. So, now that you know that being a networker for ideas is really what's going to help you come up with new ideas more effectively, how do you think about doing that? The key we've learned is that you're trying to reach out to others with different backgrounds, different perspectives, what does that mean? Different age, different educational background, different ethic background, different country, all of those differences mean their life's experience will likely bring a different perspective to your problem.
So, I had a change to interview Marc Benioff, the founder of Salesforce.com. This guy is an amazing networker, he started the Dreamforce conference, which is really one of the premiere networking conferences in the world today. He told me one time he wanted to get the perspective of the Dalai Lama on an issue that he was facing, and he was able to arrange an interview with the Dalai Lama. He wanted that perspective. He told me, "I try to regularly have breakfast, lunches, "and dinners with folks with different backgrounds." He said, "To be honest, my favorite group is probably "young entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley." He said, "I recently met with Drew Houston, "the co-founder of Dropbox." He said, "Drew grew up on the internet, I didn't.
"He sees things in ways that I don't "and that's really valuable to me. "To get that perspective." And I think as a testament to Marc's willingness to learn through networking, he is the only person I know over the age of 40 who's come up with a social media product, and it's called Chatter, and it's basically a combination of Facebook and Twitter, but for businesses. For leaders who want to know what's going on with people inside their organizations. So, it's really important to try and build these diverse networks if you want to get more good ideas.
In fact, a study by Ron Burt, a professor at the University of Chicago, found that individuals in organizations that have more diverse networks, when you look at their performance reviews, they're more likely to be described as folks with good ideas, they're more likely to get promotions, and they have higher pay. So, lot of times your good ideas may be just taking other's ideas and adapting them to your environment, and that's a great way to be an innovator.
So, let me just shared a couple of tips for becoming a better networker. Of course, you want to go to diverse networks. That means going to conferences that may be a little outside of your field, maybe a TED conference, and going and watching folks talk about fields and domains that may be new or different. That may trigger more new ideas than going to a conference that's just right in your area, of course you'd like to do both. Conferences make a difference. Tapping experts, whenever you face a problem, ask who else has solved a problem like this before and go and try to talk to them.
And even form a networking group. I mean, today, I advise all of my college students to find a group of five or six people that when they graduate, you guys do a conference call every month, bring the problems you're facing at work and have them be your consultants. That's a great way to come up with new ideas, by tapping into others. So many of us feel like solving the problem, it's my problem to solve, and we don't go to others, even though we know two heads are better than one.
As Albert Einstein once said, and remember, Albert's a pretty smart guy and you would think he could come up with a lot of great things just on his own, he said, "The ideas that you can come up "with on your own are really, "in the best case, rather paltry and monotonous." You need the ideas, the stimulation, and the experiences of others.
LinkedIn Learning (Lynda.com) is a PMI Registered Education Provider. This course qualifies for professional development units (PDUs). To view the activity and PDU details for this course, click here.
The PMI Registered Education Provider logo is a registered mark of the Project Management Institute, Inc.