Adam Grant has a superb essay in the New York Times this weekend titled Networking is Overrated.
I enjoy Adam’s writing immensely (his book Give and Take is a huge inspiration for my upcoming book #GiveFirst). Early in the essay, he has a strong lead in.
“It’s true that networking can help you accomplish great things. But this obscures the opposite truth: Accomplishing great things helps you develop a network.”
He finishes the essay with a great punch line.
“If you make great connections, they might advance your career. If you do great work, those connections will be easier to make. Let your insights and your outputs — not your business cards — do the talking.”
Now, great connections can result in special things. I’ve always believed in being open to random connections and for years I would do a random day once or twice a month, where I’d meet with anyone for 15 minutes. Some magnificent things have come out of this, including Techstars and my relationship with NCWIT. As I’ve gotten older, and more visible, it’s been harder to maintain any rhythm around random day, but it shifted to something else that’s congruent with what Adam is saying.
While I still try to respond to all of my emails, I now have very little available face time or phone time. So I allocate whatever is free to people who are doing interesting things. Instead of having random days, I have “react and spend time with people doing interesting things” days.
Remember, I’m an introvert. In Adam’s sequel to his NYT article titled To Build a Great Network, You Don’t Have to be a Great Networker (enjoyably / ironically on LinkedIn), he says:
“It’s possible to develop a network by becoming the kind of person who never eats alone, who wins friends and influences people. But introverts rejoice: there’s another way. You can become the kind of person who invests time in doing excellent work and sharing your knowledge with others.”
Get to work. Seriously – just go do some stuff. You’ll be amazed at what happens as a result.
A few years ago, I realized that I had run out of namespace in my brain and the only way I could learn a new name was to forget one that I already knew. This notion annoyed me for a little while, then amused me, and then became my reality.
I’ve always been bad at names + faces, but I have a savant like ability to remember stuff that I’ve read, especially numbers. I’m a visual learner, not an auditory learner. Not only can I read much faster, I retain so much more. So it’s not that surprising to me that when someone comes up to me it’s hard for me to associate their name with a face.
This used to not matter much. But in the last decade the number of people who know me, or know of me, overwhelms the number of people I actually know. Part of this is the function of the network vs. the hierarchy where the network is completely dominating in my world.
As I reorient my work patterns to eliminate travel, more aggressively leverage the network, and become one with the machines, I’m less interested in “hi my name is Joe Smith” and much more interested in just interacting with Joe Smith. This can be awkward for some, especially those who really want a physical connection of some sort (e.g. “can we meet for coffee?”) but if you want a magic decoder ring for my life, just start “doing” and remember that my world is a network and a doeracracy.
Please don’t be offended when you come up to me and have to reintroduce yourself. It’s definitely a me problem, not a you problem.