Building Effective Networks

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Building Effective Networks

by Herminia Ibarra on Monday, March 28, 2016 - 10:59am
Remember the childhood game Connect the Dots? It’s a straightforward puzzle, but you won’t get anywhere or see anything until you connect all the dots. But how do you connect the dots in life and in business? The answer is simple: build a network.
 
“Networks are what allow you to generate new ideas, to get the information and support that you need and to expand your influence,” Herminia Ibarra, Professor of Organizational Behavior of INSEAD Business School, explains. Networking is a proactive process. Like Connect the Dots, it is a gradual, accumulative one. Investing time and energy in your network will create a strong foundation for a more productive future.
 
Each line in Connect the Dots links two separate numbers with a new angle. Likewise, an effective network reaches out to a diversity of people, resources, and ideas. Linear and bland, networks of convenience limit your perspective by retracing lines you have already considered. Renumber your puzzle. Create connections to undiscovered ties and less familiar faces, such as those of the opposite sex.
 
According a recent study of 118 executives conducted by LeanIn.Org and McKinsey & Co., making connections can be challenging to many women. The study notes that women feel a social stigma instigating new relationships with men, while others have familial obligations that limit the time they have to invest in networking. Find the courage and time to do it anyway.
 
The most pivotal type of network includes people from a broad variety of backgrounds—both inside your company and outside, from your industry and from different fields . This enables you to gain a broader perspective of your business world, bring new ideas to the table, and discover fresh opportunities to pursue. Cultivating and maintaining a broad, connective, and dynamic network is most effective when started early with a long-term view.
 
In the Connect the Dots game of your life, each dot inches you closer to discovery. So just start: consciously connect the dots, invest the time, and create your network today.
 
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Professor of Organizational Behavior, INSEAD

Herminia Ibarra is the Cora Chaired Professor of Leadership and Learning, and Professor of Organizational Behavior at INSEAD. Prior to joining INSEAD she served on the Harvard Business School faculty for thirteen years. She is a member of the World Economic Forum Global Agenda Councils, a judge for the Financial Times and McKinsey Business Book of the Year Award, and Chairs the Visiting Committee of the Harvard...