Living in Israel for 6 years gave me the opportunity to experience me a range of challenging harsh realities, including – “if you don’t network, you don’t work”! Like many of us, I developed my consulting, learning and development business in the days when networking was largely centered on personal and business promotion, with the intent of facilitating business development. Living and working in the Start-Up Nation, within a connected and entrepreneurial culture awakened me to the shift occurring within the networking paradigm which is now a key enabler and driver of innovation and entrepreneurship. I discovered that the leadership role has also shifted, how adaptive leadership styles have evolved to create a new context for leaders as connectors. Someone who know how to artfully and skillfully, coach, collaborate, network and team in a globalized, digitized and interconnected world.
Making connections enables leaders to lead and make fluid and agile decisions in an age of upheaval!
Most of us are aware that we are living within an interconnected world, enabled by technology, yet how many of us realized the deep implications and enact the collaborative possibilities and opportunities this connectedness allows us?
As individuals, many of us are making Friends on Facebook, acquiring serious business contacts via Linked In, sharing our thoughts on blogs on Tumblr, posting pictures we love on Pinterst and Flickr. This is, of course, only the tip of the ‘connections iceberg’ that has affected a social revolution exploding in creativity and diversity of thought, ideas and redefined how we communicate, interact and develop relationships with one another.
How does this relate to the leadership role in the 21st century?
An innovative leader is an inherent connector who confidently, courageously and compassionately networks across differing and diverse teams, business units, fields and multiple disciplines. They embrace adaptive leadership styles to create coalitions of networks by seeking people’s ideas and input through a range of novel and interactive channels to:
- Harness and maximize difference and diversity of thought, ideas and solutions in organic and autonomous ways to elicit the ‘out of the box’ thinking that affects change and innovation.
- Create increased speed and agility to deal with strategic issues and threats, to solve business dilemmas with the intent of transforming them into opportunities and innovative solutions.
- Mobilize and leverage people’s knowledge, skills and experience to solve generative challenges that cross multiple disciplines, geographies, industries and systems to promote global, regional or corporate sustainability, growth or value.
Developing an innovative culture requires focusing on making connections!
In a recent HBR blog, ‘Collaboration Is the New Competition’, Ben Hecht suggested that;
“Leaders and organizations are acknowledging that even their best individual efforts can’t stack up against today’s complex and interconnected problems. They are putting aside self-interests and collaborating to build a new civic infrastructure to advance their shared objectives. It’s called collective impact and it’s a growing trend across the country”.
Networking initiatives enable organizations to make this kind of collective impact. They make deeper connections internally as the knowledge, skills and experience of any company is inside the heads and hearts of their people. They are connecting externally with their end users, to harness their aspirations towards improving their experience to promote advocacy and retain their loyalty. They are connecting systemically with the key players in their value chains, to collaborate by improving efficiencies and increase speed to market.
Additionally the most innovative organizations have adopted an ecosystem perspective as a way of flowing within global chaos. They are using innovative adaptive leadership styles and social technologies to engage and collaborate across private, public and social sectors to promote sustainability, reduce costs, increase business value or growth and increase competitiveness.
The Medici Effect and creating breakthrough ideas!
In his groundbreaking book, ‘The Medici Effect’ author Frans Johansson describes a fascinating journey to “‘the intersection’: a place where ideas and concepts from diverse industries, cultures, departments, and disciplines collide, ultimately igniting an explosion of ideas leading to extraordinary innovations”.
Breakthrough ideas are most often intersectional and occur when we bring concepts from one field into a new, unfamiliar territory.
Some simple networking tips!
Networking is a learnable skill set – to initiate and develop this vital skill set, leaders are required build both the growth and innovation mindsets focusing on adaptiveness, learning, possibility and collaboration. The leadership role requires leadership styles that embody and enact a courageous, confident, compassionate, generous and curious way of be-ing in putting themselves ‘out there’ in the world because it’s about:
- Taking the attention off ‘me’ and paying deep attention (being focused, open minded, generous and present to the whole system) to the ‘other’ you are interacting with.
- Knowing how to listen generatively (very deeply and from the whole system) for possibilities that are present in the conversation, group or presentation.
- Knowing how to ask deep and powerful generative questions that disrupt and provoke peoples thinking, capture their attention and facilitate options, opportunities and answers to questions that you could not have possibly conceived on your own.
Networking creates these intersections and exposes us to a range of creative opportunities and possibilities and gives us with the chance to sense the random ‘bits and pieces’ that help develop the ‘associational muscle’ to perceive and enact the world differently. The more diverse knowledge the brain possesses the more connections it can make when given fresh inputs of knowledge and experience this because our brain synthesizes and makes sense of novel inputs. These fresh inputs trigger the association that lead to imaginative ideas and also creates a powerful supplement to data when working through a problem, and adapting leadership styles.
The leadership role involves using networking to explore the seemingly unrelated questions, problems or ideas to create breakthroughs at the intersections of diverse disciplines & fields. This helps prepare people for a future they cant predict & leads to the discovery of new leadership styles and directions resulting in the Medici Effect-which is of course what innovation is all about!
At ImagineNation™ we provide innovation and leadership coaching, education and culture consulting to help businesses achieve their innovation goals. Because we have done most of the learning and actioning of new hybrid mindsets, behaviors and skill-sets already, we can help your businesses also do this by opening people up to their innovation potential.