Do you grow your network or do you manage it?
Growing Pathways is a consultancy with expertise in sustainable networks, and we wish to share some of our knowledge with you.
The economic crisis in 2008 and the following years brought about a radical change in the way that networks are managed. What died was the idea that managing networks is the best way for the networks to yield the highest benefit. What developed after 2008 is a still stronger understanding that networks need to grow and be nurtured, rather than managed.
Healthy and life-giving networks are like forests. You can manage a plantation, but you grow and nurture a forest. A plantation is a grid with rows of similar plants, designed this way to increase short term productivity. A forest is a highly diversified, complex home to eco-systems. Growing networks follow the same guidelines that you need when creating and nurturing a healthy forest.
The following five steps will help you understand every single plant and sprout (stakeholders); classifying your knowledge about them; making it easy for life to thrive and cross-fertilize; nurturing and strengthening the ecosystem (network), and always being one step ahead of the challenges, creating the highest resilience possible.
There will be no network without getting to know your future collaborators. Stakeholder mapping is essential to refining your strategy, product, and service because your networks’ continued involvement is crucial when developing the best solutions. Investing time in individual dialogue builds trust and openness. A diverse and living network is grown through dialogue and network engagement. You want the network to feed you with relevant information.
Analyze Your Network
You want to understand your network. Classify who you know, discover who you don’t know and who you should know to visualize your current and potential relationships. Receiving and classifying the information given to you by those in your network will help you detect how they respond and how changes align with your strategic intents. This process will provide you with current stakeholder patterns and help you adjust your approach to attracting potential stakeholders.
Track Your Network
You want to be able to reach out to your network fast and increase transparency. Save time by keeping track of and engaging with your network through digital databases such as participant databases, mailing lists, groups on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. These databases will help you organize a wide spread of stakeholders, and increasing accessibility between them. When you make it easier for the network to connect, you make it easier to continue nurturing and growing your network.
Nurture Your Network
The wealth of your network is measured in its members capacity and willingness to co-create and solve problems together. Nurturing and enhancing ties in your network is an important asset to improve your entire network’s mutual business opportunities. Neglecting networking relationships will decrease the quality of connectedness and the accumulated wealth of the network. Carefully bringing your acquaintances together to explore mutually beneficial opportunities will build bridges in the networks and continuously add value.
Recognize the Value of Your Network*
The network is always stronger than you, if not it is a weak network! You need to keep up with your network and return value to it by putting the spotlight on the strongest initiatives, sharing knowledge, addressing issues and defining new challenges. Doing so also position you as a resource to your stakeholders.