The Connect Effect: Building Strong Personal, Professional, and Virtual Networks

Reading is fun. But not every book is really worth reading it – especially when it comes to business books. Therefore I already started the “Book of the Week” Series, where I share comprehensive abstracts on my favourite books.

Now I want to start another series called: “Business Books” – featuring information on books in a more compact way. Today I would like to present you “The Connect Effect: Building Strong Personal, Professional, and Virtual Networks”, Michael Dulworth (2008).

Synopsis
Networking can be a way of life. The “Connect Effect” represents the positive outcomes that result from investing in your network. Through The Connect Effect, Michael Dulworth provides readers with a simple networking framework (the right people, the right conversations, the right time) and set of tools for developing personal, professional, and online networks. There are a number of critical areas where networks can enhance our lives. These include career guidance and door opening, problem solving, as well as learning and expertise. Dulworth recommends that readers assess their NQ or networking quotient.

By having a single measure of your ability to develop strong networks, you can understand the strength of your network and where you can improve. Two components determine your NQ: the scope and strength of your existing network, and how active you are in building and maintaining your network. The author provides an eight question survey which enables readers to calculate their NQ. Cultivating your network involves four key ingredients: building relationships, giving back or giving first, recruiting new people, and being sensitive.

Your current network is a key tool. To use it most effectively, Dulworth recommends mapping and analyzing your network. Within your network, you also have a personal brand. It is how people know you, what they have heard about you, and what they think about you. Your personal brand can be measured along two dimensions: brand strength and brand quality. You know that you are in the Network Zone when you have developed deep connections with a high quality network that is so extensive that you can tap into it to accomplish almost anything. To reach this stage, you must develop deeper relationships, connect with a diverse array of people, and develop your own personal board of directors. You should also consider how you will interact with different types of networks, such as peer-to-peer networks, organizational networks, communities of practice, and virtual networks. A peer-to-peer network consists of people who are alike in some way – usually based on their occupation.

The central idea behind the effectiveness of peer-to-peer networks is this: We learn better, trust more, and gravitate to the shared experiences of people at our level and in circumstances similar to ours. Every organization has networks that are separate and distinct from those shown on the official organizational chart. The organizational chart doesn’t show you who talks to whom, who knows what, and how the work actually gets done. To understand how the networks work in your organization, who is in them, and how they overlap, you need to conduct an Organizational Network Analysis (ONA). Communities of practice are groups of people who share a concern, a set of problems, or a passion about a topic and who deepen their knowledge and expertise in this area by interacting on an ongoing basis.

Communities of practice provide a unique tool to leverage collective intelligence. Dulworth believes this is perhaps the most important reason to understand CoPs better. Virtual networking is the new frontier. Virtual networking is any networking that is done with people you have never met face-to-face or the act of networking using interactions that are not face-to-face. A benefit of virtual networking is the ease with which you can connect to people anytime, anywhere. Currently, virtual networking tends to be dominated by social networking sites. Dulworth concludes The Connect Effect with several predictions for the future of networking. He believes that over time, it will be much easier to build, maintain, and leverage our networks. Networks will expand globally and we will have better visual connectivity with network members. New technologies and standards will emerge, yet there will be a return to more personal, face-to-face networking.

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