We all have more personal and professional resources at our fingertips than we can imagine. I am not naturally good at networking, but I suspect the advantage that great networkers have is that they are simply better able to see and tap into these resources.
I recently attended a training program that really underscored this idea for me. There were six table groups with about five people at each table. For one of the activities, each table was given a large, hypothetical, community issue to solve. As an example, one group was told that they were trying to offer low cost health screenings at a community health fair; another group was trying to create transportation solutions for a low income area. There were six different groups all trying to solve overwhelmingly huge problems.
Everyone then mingled throughout the room asking people from other groups what they could do to help. Amazingly, EVERY SINGLE PERSON had a skill, access to resources, or knew someone who could help. Although the situations were hypothetical, the resources and solutions weren’t.
The point of the exercise was to demonstrate the sheer volume of resources available in a community and I was blown away by it. Normally, if you went around and asked a bunch of relative strangers what they could do to help, you’d get little response and few ideas. So what made this activity different?
First, the focus was on gathering all ideas, big and small, and no ideas were dismissed. Also, we weren’t looking for a solution, only asking what the others could contribute (and a lot of times their contribution was to offer to connect them with someone else). Finally, no one said, “I can’t help.” The expectation was to think of some way, no matter how small or unorthodox, to help. This generated a ton of good ideas that would not have been otherwise considered.
If that magic can happen with a group of strangers, how powerful would it be with people you know? We’ve all done this to some extent, but I wonder what would happen if we really leveraged it? What if you took a problem you were working on and directly asked everyone you know what they could offer to help? (Posting it on Facebook or Twitter is not directly asking. Emailing is not directly asking. I mean to have a one-on-one in-person or over the phone conversation where they have to give you an answer right then.)
This is really leveraging the six degrees of separation. We don’t have to go too far out in our network to find someone who would be a great resource whether we are trying to find a job, buy a car, hire a personal trainer, find great day care, locate investment property, etc.
I’m becoming convinced that there are few problems bigger than the people we already know. The only thing we need to do is ask.