Sunday, February 04, 2007

Thinking Networks

A lot of people join work related networks, but the majority of the time the intent is either to help find people that you may want to hire, or in the event that you are looking for work hopefully your search will be more fruitful and efficient. These are great reasons to have networks. Linkedin is a great online network, and most communities have networks to help meet and link up with other professionals. Many people also join what are often called 'leads groups' which are usually smaller, but are focused on helping find leads in whatever field you are in.

For over a year now, I have been part of a group that can probably be best described as a thought network. A small but diverse group of individuals that get together to discuss business related topics. We get together typically once a week for coffee/breakfast at 6:30AM. The agenda is rarely defined, and the group size changes week to week based on availability, but the discussions are always interesting ranging from someone asking for advice on terminating an under-performer, to business productivity tools to startup ideas to name a few. It is often referred to as the safe haven group - a place where you can be free to ask questions, and discuss topics as a peer group, where the intention is for everyone to learn and grow.

The great thing about the group, is that it is often self correcting. New people come in through existing members, but sometime with a misunderstanding of group's purpose or with different intentions. People that come in looking to sell business or find a job often stop coming after a while. When people come in with a self serving intentions they are often disappointed. Leads do happen in this group, but its all about the intention of the individuals. People build up trusting relationships with other members of the group through meaningful and well intended discussion to help each other.

Most people reading this belong to the more superficial work related networks but I urge you to think about trying to create a small thinking network. I was once told by a great management trainer: 'In your professional development, you are either moving forward or moving backwards. There is no standing still.' Business is changing so fast these days, it is crucial to create peer groups across different types of businesses and job types to assist with forward progression. This diversity, will help you grow professionally as well as personally in ways that simply cannot be done with people in the same company, same industry or profession. Also remember the key tenants of trust and caring. Its not just about who has the best ideas or solutions to problems - its about genuinely taking an interest in the development of others, and they in you.

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