I picked up a copy of the book “Networking Is Dead,” subtitled “Making Connections that Matter,” by Melissa G. Wilson and Larry Mohl. It was published in 2012 by BenBella Books, Inc., Dallas, Tex. What a refreshing look at the whole enterprise of networking is represented in this text, which reads like a storybook! In it we read about only a few characters, two of them meeting weekly with a mentor, who helps them to change the way they look at networking entirely, and then challenges them to go out and each teach two others the new way of making connections; ones that matter.
The authors remind us of the stacks of business cards we may have collected, and the dated but common agenda of working a room rapidly and thoroughly, just striving to tease out of it the maximum personal gain. Who is here now and what can they do for me, in other words. They quickly make the case that we ought to be more concerned with why we are doing what we are doing. They state that we will attract possibilities to us once we begin to have an understanding of why we do what we do that makes it bigger than, or more significant than, what we do, or how we do what we do. When we know clearly why we are seeking connections, we are much more effective at the process of successfully making the promising and productive connections we desire. Why may seem to be painfully obvious to us, but if we work at articulating our reasons why we are engaged in any praxis, we can only gain in self awareness and in communicating any plan or proposal to anyone else about our goals and visions, whatever they may be. They also encourage us to think of what we have formerly referred to as networking now as nothing less than community-building. We want to be clear about our core values, and reach out to others who will share those core values. When we are able to express with passion and authenticity the things that matter most to us, we become better able to create a functional network, or community rich in possibilities.
Clearly, another practical and very liberating concept expressed by the authors that is key to this new approach is to just ditch that idea of quantity of contacts being the goal. It is much more beneficial to start small. This, as an aside, reminds me of my friend Bev is high school German class whose wise advice on learning a great list of vocabulary words was not to think about all forty at once, but learn two or three at a time. Sounds like common sense, but common sense is not common, is it? We really can gain from re-examining our habits, our rules, norms, standards, traditions, and get to the kernel of truth upon which any one of them has been built. We are advised to reveal the “reason within a reason” and go deep, consider the people with whom we are already in contact in a new way, and discard a desire for a vast network, or high quantity, but seek, rather, a trim one that is of the highest quality. We are to identify a small inner circle of contacts and then discern among them who gives, who takes, and who is inclined to participate in mutual exchange. Of course we don’t want to be labelled as takers, ourselves, so we must be determined to think in terms of what we can do to assist another and not just yearn for what they might do in our own interest.
Practical application of the process involves establishing the personal discipline to give, creatively, and without keeping score, to at least one other person, a minimum of one time every month. This is to add value in community, to increase the good, to set things in motion, and to be of use. There is great personal value in so doing, if not personal gain. In the book it is written, on page 85, in the chapter entitled, “Give First,” “To get started, all you have to do is ask one of your partners what one thing they would like your help with. A very simple move on your part will set a foundation for a powerful environment.” I encourage readers to check out this book and delve in to the authors’ ideas about upgrading a network, make great introductions, and inspire others, but it would be unfair of me to them to spell out too much more of their ideas in detail here. Suffice it to say there is plenty of food for thought in this little text. It should be of interest to anyone who envisions an authentically, essentially, and radically mutually beneficial humanity. -dlh