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Bringing your network into your organisation

Once in a while I get a comment that would be nice if I can bring more of my extended professional network into the company I work for. I’m happy to do so, but pretty much puzzled on how this might work in practice.

One side is more or less clear – relying on the network to get the work done. I blog, twitter and reach out relevant people from outside with questions that come from my work. Often, as a result, things get done faster or better.

However, I feel that bring often mean share or give others access to my network. This would be easy with a document, a piece of information, but relationships do not work that way. I can only expose my network and facilitate introductions, but at the end those do not do much for the end result. To collaborate, to get help or new projects, you need more than just a name with contact details and a vague idea of an expertise behind. You need the relationship – trust, knowledge of each other and shared history – and all of those are personal and take time and effort to develop.

And, I guess, there is another part of the equation – networking practices in my network are different from what you would traditionally expect. Our professional lives are heavily online and mainly in public, so most of the usual activities around establishing contact (e.g. meetings to introduce different parties) and maintaining a connection (sending Christmas cards and emails to check how things are) are not necessary – links are there as a starting point of an introduction and one’s activity traces are usually available via many streams. When traditionally the most of work of growing a relationship happens while meeting in person, in my network it’s often a continues stream of fragmented microinteractions online with a few face-to-face pockets in between. And when that precious face-to-face time comes you don’t want to spend it updating each other with all the things that are out there in public anyway…

Of course, many of us are caught in between two worlds anyway, dealing with friends, colleagues and clients that (net)work differently. Personally, I’m struggling to live in both at the same time (the comments I get at work should be  the result of it ;), but I guess there are some people who are better in that – would love to hear about your experiences if you are one of them…

For another angle on the issue – Nancy’s thinking on triangulation (that I should blog in more detail about 🙂 – Triangulating for Success: a practitioner’s experience using external networks to leverage learning and outcomes within organizations and institutions.

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