23 November 02007

More on building networks

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by Lloyd Davis.

It was about 15 years ago, as I was planning my escape from my job in the civil service, that I became interested in the activity of networking — both personal networking (as a way of finding new work opportunities) and the creation of networks that make links between (rather than within) organisations. Over those 15 years, there's no way I could count the number of networking initiatives (online and offline) that I've taken part in. Over a hundred, for sure. In some cases you can tell right off that the venture will last only a few months and then wither away; in others it's much harder to predict. Often it doesn't matter: longevity isn't everything, and I enjoy the simple spirit of experimentation — "let's try this out and see if it we can make it work this way" — that imbues many of the most unusual networks.

Are the best networks built from scratch on greenfield land or is it better to work within an existing organisation and layer networking on top of some shared history? I'll spare you the suspense of building towards a conclusion by saying that I think both are valid, there are pros and cons of either approach, and "it depends" on the specific context. Having got that out of the way, here are a couple of contrasting examples from recent experience.

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