Many professionals would claim to know and utilise the value of the connections in their network. Yet most invest time, energy and cups of coffee in creating a network, only to let it languish on a forgotten LinkedIn account or as a stack of dusty business cards.
Not all networking is equal and certainly not all networkers are equal. After two years of intensive networking, I’ve developed a schema that outlines how to cultivate a potent professional network.
Fourth dimension networking is a concept that empowers you to realise greater benefit with your network.
Common networking – where most professionals stop
Most business professionals engage in low-impact networking. They meet someone at an event; exchange business cards and basic professional details (i.e. what you do, where you work, what experience and expertise you have); then connect through social media (i.e. Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook), with some or no ongoing personal dialogue.
This kind of networking fails to realise the depth of knowledge, networks and capabilities of the people in the network.
Activating your network – become a leader
Your network is a collection of people with whom you have a relationship and to whom you can offer your knowledge, experience, skill and contacts.
So ask not what your network can do for you, but what you can do for your network?
Networking taken to the next level – the fourth dimension
The depth and richness of a network can be defined by looking at its dimensions. Network dimensions encapsulate the depth of knowledge held about a person.
Initially, deep networking appears to be a three dimensional concept, where the third dimension reveals the substance of a person beyond a mere name and face. However, there is a fourth dimension to networking that incorporates movement and action, where the capability of people is activated.
Network dimensions defined
One dimension (1D): A name and an email address; often in an email/newsletter list
Two dimensions (2D): A name, a face and some personal details; what you get from a brief meeting where business cards were exchanged
Three dimensions (3D): A name with a face, personal details and a personal sense or experience of a person; the result of a one-to-one conversation or a shared experience like a conference or committee; some bonding has taken place
Four dimensions (4D): Deeper knowledge of a person sufficient to access their stocks of knowledge (e.g. what-is, who-is, how-to, etc), and to participate in their flows of knowledge (e.g. collaboration or conversation); actively contributing to the other and their network; leading and leveraging with action
Uncommon networking – more to the fourth dimension
Fourth dimension networking’s richness is based on how it incorporates action and progressive movement. In this dimension there is purposeful intent to do activity of value to others, to catalyse goodness for and within the network, and to enable doing good with the network.
Within the fourth dimension, there are many levels of practical activity for the savvy networker. I have developed a list of value to me.
Levels within the fourth dimension network: Helen’s List
The items below are ranked and the higher numbers have greater value.
0 Responded/approached me/them of own volition with an explicit intent to keep in touch
1 Created opportunities to catch up with me/them in person to learn about them/me
2 Suggested a relevant reading, podcast, event, group, role, contact to me/them; shared knowledge or insights
3 Actively encouraged, affirmed or validated me/them in contextually relevant way
4 Mentioned me/them in a post; commented or Liked a post of mine/theirs
5 Endorsed or recommended me/them
6 Introduced me/them to someone else because I/they asked
7 Introduced me/them to someone else of own volition
8 Invited me/them to be part of a collaboration, strategic alliance or lead participant in event
9 Asked how to help me/them and acted on the answer
10 Offered me/them work
The levels can be customised and ranked according to personal preference.
A knowledge focus in fourth dimension networking
There is a knowledge management angle to fourth dimension networking: Managing your network with a knowledge focus.
Far more than just an information source, network contacts are a significant resource of rich, contextual and highly dynamic knowledge. The value of that knowledge is unlocked by actions and through relationships that mobilises knowledge for the benefit of all.
A network is a rich knowledge-base of many classes of knowledge: what-is; how-to; why-it-is-so; who-is; who-has; where-is; -when-is; what-happened etc. It can be a significant form of social capital where ‘who-you-know’ is often more highly prized rather than ‘what-you-know’.
A network can be a vehicle for the creation of personal and collective knowledge, as well as the distribution of knowledge that might be applied more widely.
I have consciously and carefully co-created my network so the preconditions for knowledge sharing are more prevalent: trust, respect and rapport through shared values and common frames of reference.
Want to ask me something? I may not know the answer but I’ve got about 600 people I can ask instantly who might.
Where to from here?
I am using this concept to examine my networking practice and the power in my network. In Part 2 of this series, I report on my findings. In Part 3, I share insights about what practices, tools and mindsets are useful for being a 4D Networker.
Join me on the journey of improving your networking performance. Spectators and participants both welcome.
Helen Palmer is Principal Consultant at RHX Group. She thinks critically about knowledge work, and how to ensure knowledge isn’t wasted. She revels in tackling the big processes of change and learning so that ideas become impact. With her colleagues at RHX Group, Helen helps individuals and teams make better use of their contacts, knowledge and information.
Networking Image credit: iStockphoto