Are you a victim of inbreeding…network inbreeding, that is?
“For the past fifteen years, I have asked the executives I teach to list the people with whom they have discussed important work matters over the past few months. Then, I ask them to fill out a grid in which they identify who knows whom among the people on that list. Invariably, most of the people they talk to also know and talk to each other. This kind of network, while cozy and cohesive, is, simply put, inbred. It also tends to be internal, operational (not strategic), and historical, an artifact of the executive’s past work history and not his or her future possibilities. It turns out that this kind of network is also deadly for collaboration.”
I believe it is a common trap many, if not all, of us fall into quite unconsciously. We are comfortable with our own, we want to relate with others who share the same challenges. But what we are inadvertently doing is narrowing our perspective and the ability to gather different thoughts to forge truly new ideas. According to Ibarra, it’s especially beneficial for us to diversify our thinking by interacting with professional from all levels of experience.
“The research is clear,” she writes. “For a more innovative and profitable result over time you are better off with a mix of newcomers and old-timers.”
I particularly liked her suggestion to spend time with younger professionals because I think we often overlook the value of the emerging leaders among us. Changing our habits could do more than help us become more comfortable with social media; it might help us better prepare our companies for the leaders of tomorrow.
Think about it. What does your network look like? Do you have a well-diversified network, or not? What are some of the surprising professional insights you’ve gained from those outside your usual network?