Adopting a networked mindset is believing in abundance rather than scarcity. Scarcity thinking is the conviction that we need to do everything ourselves. That holds us back from embracing networked ways of working. This is especially important if you want to be effective using social media for your organization, but it is bigger than that. Having a networked mindset as you approach your daily work can help you get better results.
You can more efficient. For example, turning to your professional online networks can help save you time because you don’t need to know everything about a topic area. Social media tools can help you easily connect with people who have the knowledge, resources, and ideas to share.
How to put network weaving into daily practice?
1. Think about your current work.
Brainstorm a list of the content areas and tasks in your current job. What is it that you need to know or be able to do as part of your job.
2. Identify Specific Network Weaving Techniques To Integrate
I’ve been having this conversation with several groups lately, Network of Networked Funders and Network Weaving Sandbox, comprised of individual who are intentionally approaching their work with a network mindset. What an excellent opportunity to research one’s practice, specifically the trade craft of network weaving. June Holley, an expert in networks and facilitating a community of practice of network weavers, defines some of these techniques below.
Close Triangles: This is the practice of introducing people in your network to one another. You need to let them know why you are making the introduction and these can be done both online and offline.
Work Transparently: The more public you are, the easier you can be found, the more opportunities you have. Of course, everything doesn’t have to be public, but not everything needs to be closed. One small step towards transparency is letting go of information (that isn’t confidential). Don’t wait for people to ask – share it through social networks.
Convene: This is bringing together small groups of stakeholders to give you input and feedback – from designing programs to planning. These can be done offline and online.
Engage New Perspectives: We tend to stay in our comfort zones and don’t engage different perspectives — learning from adjacent practices can be useful.
Post Questions to Individuals and the Crowd: Social network tools make it very easy to ask questions to individuals and groups of individuals – from posting a question on your Facebook Status, LinkedIn Q/A, or Twitter, you can informally and quickly get answers. There is a new social network, Quora, that is built on the concept of asking and answering questions.
Share Learning: To share learning, you have to intentionally hit the pause button and reflect. One way to incorporate this technique into your day is to set aside five minutes at the end of the day for reflection. Blogs are terrific vehicles for sharing learning.
Model Network Weaving: Network weaving encourages rhizomatic behavior – so what better way then to model the techniques for others.
3. Where are the gaps?
Looking at the items in 1, think about the gaps. Where are you falling short? Where can network weaving techniques help you unleash the abundance that networks offer. For example, rather than goggling the answer to a question you don’t know, refer the person someone in your network who knows the answer. What are some other ways you can leverage your network for your work?
4. Visualize Your Network
An important technique is to visualize your network. Steve Waddell, talks about the value of mapping networks for systemic change, maps are most useful as tools to generate discussion about “what is”, “what can be” and “what needs to change”. Looking at your network map while thinking of gaps can be an insightful step.
Mapping Your LinkedIn Network
Recently LinkedIn created this free social network analysis mapping tool that lets you see your LinkedIn network and better understand relationships between you and your network. The most powerful feature of the map is that allows you peer into your network, notice connections, and to remind yourself of people you know but may not of thought about in years. Some questions to ask:
- What patterns do you see?
- What surprises you?
- What might you do differently with your network?
I learned a lot by browsing through the visual of network. My network is dense because I’m connected to a lot of well-connected people. What surprised me was how densely connected people who work in nonprofit technology (the green), while examining it detail the map revealed a mini-history of the field. Viewing my whole network in this visual format helped me remember people who I haven’t been in touch with and their knowledge.
Using the map with a specific question about a gap is far more valuable exerise. I make a lot of referrals and I tend to get in ruts, but using the LinkedIn map as a spark to think of new people was useful.
The Challenge of Change
When I think about the network weaving tasks, it takes conscious effort to incorporate them. There are a couple of levels of challenges. The biggest hurdle is making that first mental leap – perceptions get in the way:
Information Overload: The issue is being able to shift between connectedness and solitude. Once we are able to do this in discrete ways, we can avoid the feeling of anxiety that might come from being confronted with a lot of unstructured information.
Time Consuming: Learning new skills does take time to develop a habit and then it becomes less time consuming because you don’t have to think about the skill so much. Stephen Covey says it takes 23 days to make habit. One way to start is to focus on new network weaving skill a month. Write it down on a sticky note and put it on your computer and try to use that skill once a day.
Steep Learning Curve: Learning curves become steep when we try to take on too much at once. Try to break down the task. Also, having a peer group or a colleague who is learning the skill with you helps with motivation.
Few Incentives: How many of have “network weaving” as a formal part of our jobs? Or even the informal on the job learning techniques that are such an important part of network weaving.
How have you put a network mindset into practice? What makes it valuable for your work? What are the barriers and how have you overcome them?
See my posts at the Foundation Center’s Glass Pocket’s Blog