Diverse networks can foster new ways of thinking by connecting you to people whose viewpoints, insights, resources, and lived experiences differ from your own, so says Amy Nauiokas who is the Founder and President of Anthemis, a venture investment and financial advisory organization.
Rethinking what it means to network, and acting accordingly, requires ongoing work and intention.
Whether or not your daily work requires engaging with many different kinds of people, you can benefit from developing a network that inspires new ideas and challenges your beliefs.
She goes on to list her advice for making this shift:
- Get uncomfortable: Take a small step by meeting someone new and asking about the things you don’t have in common. Try new experiences, especially ones you fear you’re bad at. Trying something new could be as big as switching industries or as small as taking a dance class.
Make space in your day and in your list of priorities to expand what you think of as comfortable. If you need more accountability, write down specific goals. These could include things like spending two hours each week developing a skill that doesn’t fit in with your current career path.
- Make mindfulness part of your networking approach. There are a number of studies about the benefits of mindfulness for work performance and overall well-being, and mindfulness can extend to the way you approach networking. When you seek out meetings, brainstorming sessions, or even email exchanges with people outside your traditional work circle, it can be very inspiring. But it can also be difficult to put inspiration into action and process new ideas from so many different directions.
When your mind is quieter, you’re in a better position to recognize when you’re slipping into your comfort zone, so you can course-correct. You can also connect the dots between seemingly unrelated ideas, resulting in smarter solutions.
- Seek out impactful groups: Create your own group by reaching out to people who think differently than you do and whose perspectives have been shaped by distinct experiences. You’ll likely create these groups outside your office space and traditional career network, so a shared agenda or activity can give these meetings a greater sense of purpose. Unite people around a charitable cause completely different from their day-to-day roles.
It is one of the ironies of our time that we have greater access to information but often find ourselves in echo chambers of people who share our opinions and worldviews. The digital age poses more opportunities than ever to carve out interesting, fulfilling careers by extending our networks beyond our comfort zones. So, let’s go out of our way to get uncomfortable. Let’s find the people who help to challenge our assumptions, call out our biases, and surface new ideas.