Blog

  • Home
    Home This is where you can find all the blog posts throughout the site.
  • Categories
    Categories Displays a list of categories from this blog.
  • Tags
    Tags Displays a list of tags that have been used in the blog.
  • Bloggers
    Bloggers Search for your favorite blogger from this site.
  • Team Blogs
    Team Blogs Find your favorite team blogs here.
  • Login
    Login Login form

When it comes to innovation, most of us under-estimate the power of serendipity and the importance of meeting new people.

In workshops, I always stress the many and varied benefits that building a network brings. So I often talk about the importance of serendipity, and of meeting new people – and it is heartening to find that the news is spreading. At a recent workshop which I ran for the Wellcome Trust, I mentioned the (strangely named, I think) Random Coffee Trials that are becoming increasingly popular in organisations as diverse as the Scottish government, the Red Cross - even the UK Treasury.

The idea is simple. People sign up to the programme, and are then randomly partnered with another participant, with whom they arrange to meet informally over a cup of coffee. There is no set agenda – some people talk shop, others have more personal conversations. But the end result is that silos are broken down, ideas exchanged, help and advice given, and relationships forged. Organisations such as Ashridge Executive Education claim that over 90% of those taking part have met someone they would not otherwise have met in the course of their work at Ashridge.

One of the participants in my workshop pointed me in the direction of an interesting piece in Network, the magazine of the Medical Research Council. By creating a pleasant environment where staff are encouraged to relax and chat over a drink (rather than drinking inferior coffee from a dispenser in splendid isolation), many at the MRC’s Laboratory of Molecular Biology (LMB) in Cambridge claim that this has made an important contribution to the 13 Nobel prizes won by scientists working at the institution.

A nice example was provided by Professor Alessi who described how informal discussions led him and a colleague to realise they were, quite literally, working on two sides of the same coin – and that each of them had the answers to the other’s questions. The outcome is a potential new cancer drug.

If you’d like more information, or advice on how to organise RCTs in your organisation, do get in touch.

Hits: 211
0

Just back from a stimulating weekend in Finland, presenting at the Hanken School of Economics Summer Summit (www.hanken.fi/en). I am always especially pleased to work in Finland. I have personal connections with the country (my mum was Finnish) and have been spending my summer holidays there since I was a small child. But it was more recently, when my ideas on approaches to professional networking were developing, that my Finnish connection came to the fore professionally.

Much (most) of Finland is wild forest. Roaming in that forest is an enormously peaceful occupation…..and it was while gathering bilberries (or it may have been mushrooms) that I realised that there is something liberating and very productive about having no goal or aim. Gathering frees one from the pressure which any ‘hunting’ activity inevitably brings with it… and that, in turn, led me to realise that most people equate networking with hunting. They need something (a job, an introduction, a piece of information) and they go looking for it. The emphasis is entirely on me and my needs.

In contrast, the gatherer (in networking terms) goes out into the world to meet people, and is relaxed enough to wait and see where the conversation leads. The emphasis is on both ‘me’ and ‘you’. Sometimes the encounter is boring, sometimes it is interesting (but still ends up in a dead end) and just occasionally it is interesting and it leads somewhere. By taking the ‘gathering approach’, the pressure button is turned off – and networking is seen as a pleasant activity in itself, which is not necessarily self-seeking or manipulative.

Try it and see for yourself. I have many stores about the benefits of chance conversations, but I’m always happy to hear new ones.

And finally, please don’t think that I’m against ‘hunting’ Without doubt, it has its uses. It just isn’t the be-all and end-all of professional networking.

Hits: 408
0

Posted by on in Uncategorized

Another one of those chance conversations that lead somewhere unexpected... I've been a volunteer reader on our local Talking Newspaper for a couple of years. Never got involved in the committee, governance or management side of things, just did the read, put the USB sticks in envelopes and went home. A few weeks back, during our 'cake break' in recording, I happened to be chatting to our engineer and regaling him with the latest instalment about dealing with what are euphemistically called 'strong characters' in my role as Chair of another voluntary organisation. I didn't think any more about it until a couple of weeks later when that same engineer (who I hadn't realised also happened to be Chair of the Talking Newspaper) called to say "I'm stepping down as Chair to spend more time travelling- would you be prepared to take over?"

Having agreed with my wife that I wasn't going to take on any additional voluntary work, I defended my 'volte face' on the basis that this wasn't an additional commitment, just an extension of an existing one with a commitment of 'only' four board meetings a year. So this week, after being nominated at the AGM, the Hexham Courant reports that 'Talking Newspaper Has New Chief'.

But the point is this. I didn't actively pursue the role, and I only took it on because the charity was hard-pushed to find someone else to take on that responsibility. I was approached to do it because of an entirely chance conversation in which I had given enough information about myself and my experience to allow a third party to decide that I had the skills required to do the job.I hadn't been 'selling' or promoting myself, just having a chat and swapping stories over a piece of home made cake.

Hits: 487
0

It may look like quite some time between this blog post and the last, but it's yet more evidence not only of the need to back stuff up, but also exactly what needs backing up. This site was working fine until a  few days ago when 'pow!', it suddenly couldn't find the SQL database that powers it. A lot of email to-ing and fro-ing with the web hosts told me that the database had disappeared from the server. Of course, files don't just disappear- someone or something has to delete them. But no log of any such activity and certainly nothing like that done from the admin side.

Restoring from backup should have been easy- until I discovered that the SQL database isn't backed up as part of the Joomla CMS backup process which merely links to it...backup has to be done separately through PHPmyadmin.

The reason I mention this is that we thought we had everything safely backed up, but obviously didn't. Cut to a few days ago when my Android phone suddenly died. Turned out it was the EFS folder that had been corrupted- and that's the one key folder that contains your phone's IMEI information without which it is useless...and guess what...the EFS folder isn't backed up in any of the usual backup packages.

I could probably re-create the various blog posts since 2011, but that's a job for a very rainy day.  Suffice it to say that we're still getting good reviews of 'The Network Effect' on Amazon, and that the most recent book to re-surface from the 2011 'Book on Train' project was on 5 Feb 2014, when it emerged from a pile of books in London's Streatham.

In June, I attended an eye-opening Summer Institute course in Social and Organisational Network Analysis at Carnegie Mellon University, which yielded many insights on just what degree of analysis and forceasting is possible with the data streams coming out of social networks.

Hits: 1216
0

I’m used to running workshops for relatively small groups, and I’ve also delivered masterclasses to all sorts of audiences, both large and small. But there’s something distinctive about a book event – and when that book is your own, the event becomes even more special.

It may have something to do with having spent the early part of my career in the world of publishing, or the fact that I’ve taken part in the same literature class for more years that I care to admit…

Whatever the reason, I was strangely moved when speaking to an audience at The Economists’ Bookshop (at the London School of Economics and, I believe, the only branch of Waterstone’s to retain its original name). The audience wasn’t huge, but they were all book lovers, and many of them were students. The venue wasn’t specially impressive but it was a bookshop. And to see our book (with my name on it, as co-author together with my colleague Tony Newton) ranked 7 in that week’s sales charts represented a validation of all that we have been striving to achieve – changing attitudes to networking and helping people connect with each other in these difficult times.

Now all we have to do is persuade the 300-odd other branches of Waterstone’s to (a) stock the book so that browsers have a chance of coming across it and (b) run a signing event! Any suggestions will be gratefully received!

Hits: 1257
0

© Management Advantage Ltd 2011-2014   Privacy Policy | Terms & Conditions | Login | Contact Us | Site Map | Media Resources