Building an Effective Network

Predators, Prey, and the Social Contract

Networks are built on trust. The reason why trust is so important, however, is because humans are predators, and so society is based in part on putting the good of the whole (the network) over the interests of the individual. This means that while we are bound by a social contract, we are also wary of others' goals and interests, and factors like envy, jealousy, competitiveness, etc. can interfere with building and maintaining trust. Here are seven simple guidelines on how to network well.

There's a Time and a Place...

Remember that just because you have a story to tell, it doesn't mean you can simply shout it from the rafters. At best you will alienate people; at worst you will irritate them. Someone has to want to hear your story, or more likely, they have to want to hear you tell a story. All of this is based on building good relationships. Start-up organizations and non-profits tend to have difficulty with this, but so do many major corporations (think Microsoft during the rise of Apple in the 2000s). Here are some ways to approach storytelling through your network that help you maximize impact and minimize tension.

Just Because You Build It...

Your organization is more than the product your build, the service you provide, or the people you help. An organization is always the set of relationships and interactions that come together to make something happen, not the thing that happens itself. If you sell an innovative design for a shoe, good for you. I hate to say it, but no one really cares. You might get lucky, and you get coverage in a major media outlet. But if you're not in that 1/1000th of a percent, sorry. Your story, then, shouldn't focus on the basics of the business. There's always another product, there's always another service, there's always more people or issues. Uber doesn't sell fast, safe, efficient car services; it rethinks transportation, or it brings out the entrepreneur in all of us, etc. TOMS doesn't sell cute, easily recognizable shoes; it sells the idea that we can help others in our daily lives. UC Berkeley doesn't sell a high quality education; it sells the concept of ideas, of energy, of making another world possible.