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To foster innovation, what type of network do I need to create?

question to innovate

This the seventeenth of a series of weekly posts where I will answer a few common questions about innovation. Please feel free to add your own response. Also, if you have any questions you think we should discuss, let me know.

One thing every innovator needs is access to people who can help him with specific knowledge and resources. And, social media can enable innovation in a variety of ways. Explicitly, one that is rarely talked about is that you can meet people from different backgrounds and collaborate. It is an opportunity to pick people’s brains in a very interactive and transparent way.

Twitter and LinkedIn are such networks that serve this purpose. Cultivating a network that provides you with insights and ideas is incredibly, and it is something every person and organization needs to do if it wants to come up with breakthrough ideas.

Five discovery skills that drive innovation

A few years ago Christensen, Clayton M.; Jeff Dyer and Hal Gregersen published some research where they outlined the five discovery skills that drive innovation in both individuals and organizations. These five skills are illustrated below (via WSJ):

five elements of innovation

Associating, questioning, observing, experimenting and networking.

It is this last skill which I’m addressing in this post. And, as the authors of this research explain, there are two types of networkers:

  • Resource networkers. These are the delivery-driven people who network to sell themselves, to sell their companies, or to build relationships with people who possess desired resources.
  • Idea networkers. These are discovery-driven people who actively tap into new ideas and insights by talking with people who have diverse ideas and perspectives.

More specifically, here is a side by side comparison:

networking for innovation

Put Social Media to work for innovation

As you can see, to foster innovation and put social media to work for you, you need to surround yourself with people who provide you with strategic insights, not sales leads. Of course, balance is key. But, if you have a network of sales leads, focus on building one of ideas.

A place to start is to subscribe to my filtered Twitter list for “innovation“. There you’ll find entrepreneurs, innovation practitioners and thought leaders, as well as companies who are pushing it in their respective fields.

Bottom line: People who think outside the box often talk to people who play in a different box to get new ideas. Build an idea network, its never been easier.

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