Don’t Network

At least how it’s currently perceived. It’s a verb riddled with connotations of people interrupting conversations, divying out business cards and issuing empty promises.

Much better, just be generous.

If you view the act of interacting with people you know (i.e. those within your network) as an opportunity to help them out, rather than to take from them, you’ll find that in the long run, you’ll be much better off.

So says Adam Grant, a business professor who conducted a large study of people in a number of workplaces. He says there are 3 types of people: givers, takers, and matchers. His results showed that takers and matchers were in the middle in terms of overall performance within their organisations, and givers were at the extremes. Those who routinely helped others out as part of their daily life were those who rose to the top – being able to forge new relationships, and maintain existing ones.

The distinguishing factor between those at the top, and at the bottom was what personal cost were givers taking on. Those who could offer a five minute favour that would have a big impact on someone else were the most successful in their field, rather than those who spent hours doing thankless tasks and getting distracted from their work.

Give someone an Intro

And arguably one the simplest ways to do someone a potentially life changing favour at low personal cost is to introduce them to somebody within your network. I wrote about a while ago, a simple way to track the introductions you have made.

And we were lucky enough to be spoken to by the founder of Intros, Robyn Scott. She had the room transfixed with her stories of the power, and pleasure, of helping others out, as well as the lovely back-story as to how Intros was founded.

The advice she imparted seemed so simple and intuitive, yet at times feel incompatible with how the world is meant to work. As a child, you are always told to say your Pleases & Thank Yous, and be kind to people, yet as you grow up and get on, these behaviours get sidetracked. The world of work hardens you into sending blunt emails and not expressing gratitude, but instead focussing on ‘progressing your career’ and taking a selfish attitude to the way you work.

Robyn was able to give compelling, and empirically-backed, reasoning as to why this kind of thinking just doesn’t work. Those who help, and importantly ask others to “pay it forward” (i.e. ask the person they helped to help someone else) had a great positive impact on those they interacted with.

How to not network

Throughout the day we were given a number of tactics for how to do better when meeting new people, and maintaining relationships with those you already know.

Laura Williams of The Thinking Well had earlier shared some excellent practicalities of “networking” with the NEF Class of 2014. Her focus was on giving people a succinct introduction of who you are not as “I am Sam, and I work as a …”, but instead “I am Sam, and I help people do…”.

Flipping how you view frame your response to “And what do you do?” gives much more value to the person you are meeting.

Further, by integrating five minute favours into your daily routine (Robyn suggested as part of the Getting Things Done framework) you can ensure that showing gratitude doesn’t slip into your Low Priorities list.

So what can I do?

At the end of the workshop, the room felt to compelled to never ‘traditionally’ network again. We were also motivated to start using – and begin helping others through a simple, five minute task.

I’ve been using the product for a while, and so can share with you the format that I’ve found works best. To make things easier, I’ve just pulled out a recent intro I’ve done between my friends Richard (Branson) and Mark (Zuckerburg).

Intro Richard Mark

Give it a go and you’d be surprised what a positive difference it can make. Helping out people you know, regardless of “what’s in it for me” is an incredibly rewarding thing to do. If you’d like to try and need an invite, then please just send email me. 


Have you done any five-minute tasks that help people recently? How would you introduce two people over email? Do you agree that Givers receive more than Takers?