Networking HQ BLOG with Larry James

Sunday, October 5, 2014

What Isn’t a Network?

Filed under: Networking — Larry James @ 8:30 am
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Harvey Mackay, Guest Author

One day a salesman driving on a two-lane country road got stuck in the ditch. He asked a farmer for help. The farmer hitched up Elmo, his blind mule, to the salesman’s car. The farmer grabbed a switch, snapped it in the air, and yelled, “Go, Sam, go!” Nothing happened. He snapped it again. “Go Jackson, go!” Still nothing happened. Then he flicked Elmo. “Go, Elmo, go!” And Elmo pulled the car out of the ditch.

“Hey, what’s with the ‘Sam’ and the ‘Jackson’?” asked the driver.

WhatNETisn't“Look, if he didn’t think he had any help, he wouldn’t even try!”

We all need help. Being part of a team is one way to get.

But a network is different than a team. Networking is not teamwork!

The easiest way to explain the distinction is to start way down the food chain.

An anthill is a marvelous example of teamwork. Each any has a role to play, sometimes several roles. Some ants go out every morning and forage for leaves. Other ants digest the leaves and convert them into a kind of manna used to feed the entire colony. Others spend the day in the anthill, feeding and caring for the young or doing maintenance work. Still others groom and care for the queen ant. In some ant societies, there is even a standing army that specialized in raiding other colonies. They bring back prisoners to serve as slaves and perform menial chores. (Hey, this is sounding a lot like human society.)

An ant colony is a perfectly ordered, self-contained society. Every ant has its duties and performs them, without variation or complaint, until it dies. There are no better team players in nature.

But anthills are not networks!

No ant has ever put down his leaf, waled back to the nest, and said to another ant he happened to grow up with, “Hey buddy, I’m sick of spending every day carrying around ten times my own weight in leaves. And you must be bored to tears doing nothing but sweeping out the nest. Maybe it would be good for our morale if we rotated these jobs. What do you say that if I can arrange a little extra manna for you, we could switch gigs?”

That would be networking, and ants do not network. They do what they do as part of the team and that’s it.

Most corporations do not network. They are organized into tightly contained departments that function like silos. Information is accumulated vertically but never flows horizontally to other departments that might need it. R&D never talks to sales, sales never talks to customer service, and so on.

Orders go down the chain of command. Obedience comes up. The folks who work there are like ants, they’re on automatic pilot.

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Those organizations that do network, such as General Electric and 3M, are exceptions, and as a result, they are exceptionally successful. These companies try to break down the barriers between departments and the not-invented-here syndrome that goes with specialization and hierarchical systems.

They create cross-functional teams. They organize around serving customers instead of around serving themselves. They encourage individual initiative. They reward networking. THey are not anthills.

Jack Welch, General Electrics’s CEO, is so determined to promote networking he has even invented his own networking buzzword: “boundarylessness.”

“In business, what is worse than having departments?” asked Welch in Fortune Adviser in 1996. “They don’t talk to each other. You have to make open behavior something that is rewarded… Boundarylessness says that every time you meet somebody you’re looking for a better and newer and bigger idea. You are open to ideas from everywhere.”

Unfortunately, most people do not network. When it comes to shaping their own careers and their own lies, they are team members, no individuals. They cut their leaves, sweep their nests, punch their clocks, and duck their heads.

So, look around. If the only people you’re interacting with on a day-in, day-out basis are the other drones in your anthill, it’s time to make some new connections.

MackayCopyright © 2014 – Harvey Mackay. Adapted from the book, “Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty: The Only Networking Book You’ll Ever Need” by Harvey Mackay. His books are among the top 15 inspirational business books of all time, according to the New York Times. In total, Harvey’s books have sold 10 million copies worldwide, been translated into 37 languages and sold in 80 countries.Harvey is a nationally syndicated columnist for United Feature Syndicate, whose weekly articles appear in 52 newspapers around the country, including the Chicago Sun Times, Rocky Mountain News, Orange County Register, Minneapolis Star Tribune and Arizona Republic. Visit Harvey’s Website!

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