Sunday, June 6, 2010

Networks vs Friendships

It is harder to make friends when you need them.

I don't think it can be said any better. From the first day I joined IE I have been told over and over again that we must work on our networks. Now I am not sure about my middle name any more. It used to be Powerpoint; time to change it to Network? First it would be great to define for myself what networking is and why should everyone go out and engage with people we don't know and not necessarily like.

Have you ever thought why would Margaret Thatcher write 700 of "thank you" notes to all those who helped her get elected for the first Cabinet position? Well, she was in her early 30s at the time with lots of vigor and enthusiasm, but surely there were other things to do. Taking care of the twins, for instance. Still, it was more about the personal connection and acknowledgement of contributions made by other people. It was going an extra mile. It was distinguishing, and distinguished she was. Networks helped her get where she was in the first place, survive there during the first tough years and eventually get straight to the top.

Now, what if we don't aspire to me Margaret Thatchers? Small and comfortable lives are more we can hope for and ambitions of the big and apparently dirty world of politics are somewhat foreign to our world view. But who will give you advice on the best way to spend your holiday or inform you of the latest developments in the local grocery store? We tend to build networks around our interests, areas of affiliation or geographies. While it is not the best way to leverage your networks, it is a start and I have not seen anyone without at least some kind of a network. If such people exist, I would not recommend allowing them in public unsupervised.

How friendships are different? Are they different? Are they part of the networks? Guess the difference will be seem much clearer when it comes to asking favors. Then I like the metaphor of a bank account. Imagine that you have a bank account where you deposit your time and efforts. The return on investment and the interest rates with friends are high and sometimes unmeasurable, just because friends don't think in terms of a favor budget. With networks it is slightly different, just because from the very beginning you know that you establish a connection with a long-term plan to get something out of it. Those people will expect to get something out of you too. Thus, the major difference is as old as this world - it is the price of cheese in a mousetrap.

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