From zodiac signs to network analysis (II) – Weak ties
There are all sorts of reasons why you need to work on your weaker ties to create an effective business network. We can generalize our concept into three key areas.
Having worked in the same industry for a long time, most of my business network is from the same industry. It’s only natural that you see someone at the same industry conference year after year, you make connections. Sometimes these connections are extremely useful to get insights and the latest movements of the industry. Being an employee of a company, it is great for career progression. Being a business owner, however, has some caveats.
Those that do similar things as you in the same industry, are likely to be direct competitors. The conversation between direct competitors, well you know…Won’t go as far as sharing your own secret recipe!
Whilst you can exchange ideas and best practices, it is less likely that you can innovate and create new things and ventures together. By working on connecting with weaker ties from different sectors, you may find opportunities that would else-wise not exist.
Is it pointless for a clothing brand to be acquainted with the fishing industry? Look at Ecoalf, quality and timeless clothes meet old fishnets. The coolest windproof, waterproof jacket that I own in my closet. Behold, my sandals are made of old tyres but they are so comfy you won’t believe it.
Making meaningful connections with people from other sectors open up doors for resources and channels that are very likely to help you gain a competitive advantage against your competitors. The concept of a circular economy can also be achieved when you have worked through establishing those weaker ties from other areas of business.
From the same place
I know it sounds foolish, but it’s the reality. We are easily acquainted with people with the same cultural background and speak the same language as us. Because there is a lot in common to talk about and a strong sense of connection. In fact, you’re much more likely to help out someone from your country when you’re both in a foreign environment. It’s an instinct that has helped human beings survive.
But only selectively working with those from the same background means missing out on opportunities beyond the horizon.
We’re entering into this discussion assuming that you know how powerful a market research may be when you wish to understand the opportunities to the market in mass. Working on these weaker ties will give you a strong sense of how to strategize your approach in a realistic manner. This will compliment any market research made. It may even help you better understand what your market research is trying to tell you.
Cultural sensitivity doesn’t come from a textbook. Don’t be fooled that you can read a few articles and get your passport to cultural awareness.
What can you learn by making ties with people from a different culture? Well… 1) Their preferences in how to be spoken to;
2) The etiquette of doing business in another place;
3) Access to knowledge and connections that will open doors to new markets with a much higher chance to succeed.
This can help you avoid costly failures when trying to enter a market by failing to understand the fundamental preferences and habits of the market.
If you ever wondered how IKEA names its products, Quartz has a quick video, be ready to be intrigued. Using a rather sophisticated naming system, IKEA uses the Swedish words that sometimes simply describes what the product does or stands out as. Once upon a time, there was a mobile working station that was named FARTFULL. Which in Swedish means “fast”. We can all guess that it no longer appears on the IKEA catalogue.
A company as established as IKEA, cannot possibly know everything. So I suppose our humble selves need to make sure we don’t make mistakes that we cannot afford.
Data nerds attract data nerds because they speak the same language! Same goes to design maniacs. There are many expert groups and communities out there that connect people based on the same type of specialty interest. There communities create tremendous value for us to learn from each other in enhancing our skillset! The more experienced members often seek out to help the newbies.
On that note, only hanging out with a fixed set of expertise also means that there are certain traits that could be missing from the network that is being created, whether it is soft skills or hard skills. Like it or not, people that have similar skills are wired in a remarkably similar way.
It makes it extra hard to go out there and mix with people that have totally different interests than you. Because you feel less understood and it takes more effort to express yourself. There is no unspoken understanding by the wink of eye or raise of the eyebrow, you just always have to spell it out.
However once you are able to do so, you will find so many things that you might not be seeing in your business area that could be missing or improved. Simply because a fresh pair of eyes coming from a different perspective. The dream team, is never made up of people that only have the same skills. Because they have the same blind spot and weaknesses.
Look no further than the Myth team. Carolina and I are from different planets, she’s on the planet of design, creativity and marketing whilst I live on planet data and process improvements. It is through understanding our differences that we take a step back to try and explain our ideas to each other and develop each other’s skillsets. By trying to verbalize our ideas to someone completely outside of the field, our minds expand. As a result, we keep coming up with new ideas. Then Myth was born on one hot summer afternoon.
Now that we’ve identified the three key areas to look at, we’re ready to move on to the final step. To create your own perfect business network. Stay tuned!