Discovery Skill #5: Networking – Leadership Network Blog
One of the principles we follow at Leadership Network is that innovation doesn’t happen alone. For the past 31 years, we have held the belief that if you get the right people in the room, great things happen. We have spent a great deal of energy, effort, and resources to build a network of leaders and a variety of experiences centered around Kingdom innovation. ‘Networking’ is in our DNA. It’s how we help leaders like you move from ideas to implementation to impact.
But how does networking for innovation ‘work?’ According to the authors of The Innnovator’s DNA: “Devoting time and energy to finding and testing ideas through a network of diverse individuals gives innovators a radically different perspective. Unlike most executives—who network to access resources, to sell themselves or their companies, or to boost their careers—innovative entrepreneurs go out of their way to meet people with different kinds of ideas and perspectives to extend their own knowledge domains. To this end, they make a conscious effort to visit other countries and meet people from other walks of life.”
Networking for innovation can happen in a variety of settings. Popular today are idea conferences such as TED, Davos, and the Aspen Ideas Festival, that draw together artists, entrepreneurs, academics, politicians, adventurers, scientists, and thinkers from all over the world. Michael Lazaridis, the founder of Research In Motion, notes that the inspiration for the original BlackBerry occurred at a conference in 1987. A speaker was describing a wireless data system that had been designed for Coke; it allowed vending machines to send a signal when they needed refilling. “That’s when it hit me,” Lazaridis recalls. “I remembered what my teacher said in high school: ‘Don’t get too caught up with computers because the person that puts wireless technology and computers together is going to make a big difference.’”
Often the key is to connect with individuals and teams outside the leader’s domain. Kent Bowen, the founding scientist of CPS technologies (maker of an innovative ceramic composite), hung the following credo in every office of his start-up: “The insights required to solve many of our most challenging problems come from outside our industry and scientific field. We must aggressively and proudly incorporate into our work findings and advances which were not invented here.” Scientists from CPS have solved numerous complex problems by talking with people in other fields. One expert from Polaroid with in-depth knowledge of film technology knew how to make the ceramic composite stronger. Experts in sperm-freezing technology knew how to prevent ice crystal growth on cells during freezing, a technique that CPS applied to its manufacturing process with stunning success.
Why Invest in Discovery Skills?
Why should church leaders invest time, energy, and resources in questioning, observing, experimenting, and networking? I believe something can be learned from the motivations of the most innovative executives. The research reveals two common themes: (1) They actively desire to change the status quo, and (2) they regularly take risks to make that change happen. This research shows a consistency of language that innovators use to describe their motives. Jeff Bezos wants to “make history,” Steve Jobs desire was to “put a ding in the universe,” Skype cofounder Niklas Zennström to “be disruptive, but in the cause of making the world a better place.” According to the authors: “These innovators steer entirely clear of a common cognitive bias called the status quo bias—the tendency to prefer an existing state of affairs to alternative ones.” Instead they have chosen to consistently and fearlessly embark on a ‘mission for change.’
No group of leaders has a more compelling ‘mission for change’ than you do. As leaders in the Church, the things you choose to invest in have the potential to impact lives for eternity. In addition, the need for lasting change in our word is great. Greater than the impact that ‘business as usual’ or cautious incrementalism can provide. We need leaders who are dedicated to the practice of these skills, not for the sake of innovation, but for the advancement of the Kingdom.
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