Building Entrepreneurial Connections in a Changing Market
A network is a blunt instrument if those within it can only make plans, but are unable to take action
When we think of the word "connection", LinkedIn and other social media platforms are often the first things that come to mind. And not necessarily in the most progressive of ways.In this context — or in the context of any type of business networking event — relationships and connections are used as transactions, which is a shame because the future of business will rely more on networking and connections than ever before, but not in the usual person-to-person way. Instead, we will depend more on structures and systemic support for networking within organisations themselves.
And, right now, we're just not anywhere near that reality being true.
Modern businesses face two problems (among others). The first is simple: it's hard to find information and tools within businesses. This is why tools like Slack, Microsoft Teams, Google Docs, etc, are growing.
The second problem is that the future of collaboration and networking will rely less on our knowledge of information and more on our ability to creatively solve problems together. And right now, the systemic nature of business doesn't allow for that to happen.
Transformative organisations accept that responsibility for analysing and optimising processes within a business must be shared. The question is how to ensure the expertise of all process stakeholders is reflected in your business modelling.
Business social networking is a great step, but it's only one step. To move quickly, the true business advantage in the 21st century businesses is the need to establish processes that allow colleagues to not just collaborate, but take the next step with their collaboration.
In other words, take action, rather than just talk about it.
True business transformation that allows for this type of networking needs to rely on three separate work principles. Businesses would do well to embed these within their policies:
The Democratisation of the Workforce
Collaboration and networking through a messaging service is a necessary first step, but that networking needs to be allowed to actually put plans and projects into practice. While there needs to be a process to make sure these experiments drive value, true collaboration and networking should be allowed to take next steps.The growing popularity of flat management structures allows for this, but businesses should allow more autonomy. Instead of setting specific initiatives as goals, organisations should identify outcomes and let teams identify the best possible solutions.
From there, teams can access central information repositories to make those plans happen even faster. This means collaboration won't just be theoretical; it has the management's backing to take things to the next level.
Make the Complex less Ambiguous
Currently data and analytics workers spend too much of their time interpreting information and cleaning it up for use rather than having it in a clear, accessible format.True networking relies on the tools in the hands of the workers being transparent and useful in a clear and more consistent way. That increases the speed to market and encourages not just effective collaboration, but also the actions that come from that collaboration.
Accessible Tools that are Available to Everyone
Businesses hoping to move faster than the competition cannot simply put tools and processes in the hands of a few. This arbitrarily creates a hierarchy where those who hold the keys get the respect and the control over development, despite the fact they may not even be equipped for the role.
Instead, businesses need to promote more networking by creating tools, processes, systems and documentation that is available to every single person in the organisation—from the CEO to the newest intern.
That way, true networking won't just revolve around questions like, "Can you get me access to this information?" Access will be assumed, and teams can then move on to more pressing matters, like how to creatively solve problems that one person can't on their own.Organisations need to ensure these systems have:
Access to information from different departments
Documentation about processes so people can see what the next step is
Process mapping so next steps are clearly defined
A network is a blunt instrument if those within it can only make plans, but are unable to take action. Your future competitive advantage will instead rely on reducing the friction that prevents self-defining networks from taking the logical next step following collaboration. The secret to entrepreneurial connections? Stop talking, and actually create the collaborative environment that helps drive transformation across the enterprise.