Strategic Networking

A recent HBR article (January 2007, p 40-48) focuses on the difference between managers and leaders from a networking point of view. The article talks about the different forms of networking; operational, personal and strategic.

Operational networks are about building strong working relationships with people within the organisation to get the job done. This is core stuff – it should be bread and butter – but it’s only one aspect of networking and too much focus on this form of networking can result in a weakness in dealing with unforeseen challenges (future shocks).  Or for devotees of Stafford Beer’s Viable System Model, too much focus on Level 1 and 2 and not considering Level 3 or 4.

Personal networking helps to build personal and professional development and is about broadening external contacts for future referrals, useful for assist people to advance in their careers. These networks are a safe way to expose problems and gain insights into new solutions.

Finally, strategic networking is about figuring out future priorities and challenges and getting stakeholder support for them. It’s about influencing and leveraging people inside and outside the organisation. It requires really good role models, through communities or shared interest areas. It requires giving to the network, allocating time to it and sticking at it in the face of day-to-day operational demands.

From a foresight point of view, strategic networking is critical to understand what is happening in the wider world and being able to influence your world through the actions of others.  It’s about giving energy to others so that in return, you can gain insights and leverage on your goals.

Note to self – must get out more …


4 Responses to Strategic Networking

  1. Nerida Hart says:


    It also allows you to take on the role of connector. This, in turn, strengthens the network even more. From a work perspective, I find it extremely satisfying to link two people who would never (probably) have made a connection otherwise and for them to extend their knowledge through those connections. It has also been said that innovation ofeten comes out of a connection which is not immediately obvious 😎

  2. David Montgomery says:


    the distinction between operational and strategic activities is clear and generally well accepted. Networking is an integral part of anyone’s working life except possibly that of a committed hermit. I think there is a danger here that we try to ascribe too many tags or labels to activities which are already self explanatory. Perhaps the authors of the HBR article were below their publications quota for this semester?

    One other thought — creativity occurs at the edge of chaos so too much structured activity will provide the antithesis.

    ……..think I need to get out a bit more too!


  3. Thanks Nerida and David

    Many people network more than others. Some have people come to them due to their status or reputation but I think that the authors were pointing out the benefits of seeking out people who you want to network with and to get out there and do it – as well as think strategically about connections you want to make.

    The link with innovation is critical – it is with hearing what others are doing and their success/failure that encourages us to try things in our own context. On the edge of chaos is good – and even stepping into it occassionally to shake things up could be really useful as well!

  4. David Montgomery says:


    undoubtedly some people network more than others but that is no different to the notion that some people make friends or seek out advice more readily than others. Today, more and more time seems to be spent in the workplace or at work for those who do not have a designated place of work. Therefore what we call networking is in fact the process of socialising but within the context of work — this seems to resonate with Nonaka’s thinking.

    then there’s the joy of reciprocity — in the knowledge economy ideas are meant to be hard currency so networking, or socialising within the workplace brings a degree of risk that someone may steal your ideas unless you hold the view of Harry Truman — it is amazing what you can achieve if you don’t always claim the credit.

    I’m just off down the pub to network with some mates — it didn’t occur to me to phone them up and say do you fancy a quick spot of networking but it may yet come to that!


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