In 2013, bestselling author Michael Simmons interviewed Ronald Burt, one of the world’s top network scientists. He asked him about the number one best predictor of career success. Burt's response? An open network.
An open network is a network where you are connected to different clusters of people who don’t know each other (versus a closed network where you are connected to people who tend to know each other).
We often hear that in order to be successful we must have a strong network. What many people don't realize is that not all networks are created equal. There's a difference between having a closed network where you interact with a close-knit group of people and an open one where you develop strong connections with many diverse types of people.
Most people live their lives in closed networks. They spend time with the same people who share their same views. It’s comfortable.
Unfortunately, it's also limiting.
According to Ronald Burt, half of our predicted career success is due to our ability to develop open networks. At work, it affects our compensation, level of seniority, and reputation.
Here's why open networks are so powerful and why relationship intelligence matters more than you might think:
People who build open networks are, in essence, connected to many diverse viewpoints and perspectives. They're more likely to gain novel information from their network. Access to novel information encourages the flow of new ideas and enhances creative capacity.
A breakthrough study by MIT studied hundreds of ideas submitted by EMC Corporation (renamed Dell EMC) employees via their internal idea management system and correlated this behavior with their Twitter usage. It found that employees with more diverse Twitter networks tended to generate better ideas. Whether it's coming up with ideas for a new product or developing a solution to a business problem, individuals with open networks are at an advantage in terms of their creative potential.
Research by Philip Tetlock found that people who have open networks are better forecasters than people who have closed networks. Because people who build open networks have access to a diverse group of people, they are more adept at synthesizing information and have broader and more accurate views of the world. They are less likely to be subject to bias and are better able to forecast key trends, technological developments, new product and service demands, and the like.
First Mover Advantage
People with open networks have fewer degrees of separation between themselves and others. It's comparatively easier for them to access people who can help them solve challenges and realize business outcomes. Because they're able to quickly ally with others, they have a first mover advantage over those who live in closed networks. Individuals with closed networks are more likely to have "holes" in their network and must expend comparatively more time and effort to connect with other key players (if at all).
Comparatively speaking, life in a closed network is relatively effortless, safe, and comfortable. It's challenging and time-consuming to develop an open network. But it's well worth the effort. A 2017 study published by researchers at Bocconi University concluded that when companies have more open networks and when workers bridge silos by talking to colleagues with diverse skillsets, patent production increases. Life in a closed network limits innovation.
Affinity makes it easy to leverage relationship intelligence to create an open network. By integrating with millions of email and calendar touchpoints and stitching this data together, Affinity creates a powerful real-time relationship graph. Affinity gives you a holistic view of your team's most valuable asset, its network. This allows you to surface the best paths to introductions to easily expand your network.
By strategically identify individuals outside of your current network who you ought to be connected to, you will be primed for career and personal success. Affinity empowers you to gain unprecedented relationship intelligence, thereby enabling you to build and maintain a more open network than previously possible.
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