Turning Networking Upside Down | Jeff Slobotski | TEDxUNO

Turning Networking Upside Down | Jeff Slobotski | TEDxUNO

Translator: Nika Kotnik
Reviewer: Denise RQ I’m here to tell you that everything
you know about networking is wrong. That’s right. Everything you’ve heard,
been taught, read, seen, all of it, it’s all wrong. But before I get into why, let’s look at what Webster’s dictionary
has to say about networking. Networking is “defined
as interacting with other people to exchange information
and develop contacts, especially to further one’s career.” Not too bad, little stodgy, little old. So, we’re going to run
through two scenarios. The first, for those in the room
that may be over 25, maybe 30, this is what networking looks like to you. It’s going to an event,
make sure your shirt is pressed, you’ve got enough business cards
in your pocket but not too many; you’re making sure your hair is done, or gentleman on the right,
maybe not done, you’re also making sure
you don’t drop your drink on yourself, or the person you’re talking to; or you smile with joy
like the woman in the middle, because you’re overjoyed
that this conversation is almost over, and you can go on to somebody else. (Laughter) Or if you’re under 20, 25 in the room,
this is what networking looks like. Heads down, 24 hours a day,
almost seven days a week, and waiting for
the direct message from Twitter – like the young man on the top left – where the party is tonight. Or the girl in the bottom middle, waiting to see
how many Instagram likes she has. Or the gentleman
on the top right, very excited, because the girl he thinks is cute
added him on Facebook. Both of these are wrong though. I want to say that they are both wrong. The handshakes, the business cards,
the inauthentic relationships, the talking but not really listening
to people in conversations, it’s all incorrect. I’d like to propose
that we flip this on its head, and we look at a new way of networking. One that isn’t about getting
but rather giving. One that isn’t about me,
but about you, and you, and you. And all of us working together to make not only our community better
but our lives and the world better. See, my story started in this great
little town called Omaha, Nebraska. I was curious, because when I told folks
that I was from Omaha, I’d often get a laugh
– or Ohio, or Oklahoma – or, “Do you have roads there?”, and I would say with confidence, “We do have roads,
and we have Internet in Omaha, Nebraska.” But what was happening around a decade ago
is this city was transforming. It was transforming from this quiet,
little agrarian, sleepy town, if you will, into something amazing. The river front was transforming. I was excited and inspired by the people
that were changing the face of this city. And I was curious
who was behind this change? What were they doing,
and what was their back story? And around that time, I had the ability to travel for my job
to other cities that we all hear about, like New York, and San Francisco,
and Austin, and Bolder. I’d see different communities,
and different hubs of networks, and people supporting one another
in the work that they were doing. I’d get back home and say,
“Well, wait a minute. We have those same individuals here. We have that same passion,
that same drive, that same intellect.” But in a sense, those stories
were quiet; they were secret. They were flying under the radar. For those that didn’t grow up on a farm,
like myself, this is a grain silo. Grain silos are used to store grain, corn,
and other agricultural products, very efficiently, storing millions,
and millions, and millions of pieces of information
within those silos. Not necessarily a bad thing; however, I saw a symbolism between the silo and the stories
that were in our own community. Those stories were amazing, but they were in sense locked,
they were in a sense held hostage. So I set out with a flip camera. No, I didn’t say iPhone, – I said a flip camera,
Google that, they are circa 2006 – and I’d go around, I was curious to find folks
and stories that existed here. So my little experiment of putting
a flip camera in an individual’s face and say, “Tell me about what you do,” turned into a repository
online called “Silicon Prairie News”. All Silicon Prairie news was
was a repository for those stories, that energy, and those people
that were changing the face of our city and our community at the time. But what quickly started
as an on-line community, quickly turned into an offline iteration
of that community as well. So, what you’re looking at here,
is a room full of 700 innovators, entrepreneurs, creatives, changemakers from across the city,
the state, and the region. There’s an excitement and an energy to be
a part of something bigger than oneself. Don’t take my word for it; there is people much smarter than I that have studied this
for years and years. One of those individuals is a network scientist
by the name of Ron Burt. What Ron came to find was that networks
and people’s success is defined by the size and openness of one’s network. So what does that mean? What we’re looking at here is a cluster,
another term from network science. People form clusters. If you’re born a democrat,
you’re probably going to stay a democrat. If you go to a certain school, you’re in a cluster
with other individuals at the same school. So, this is the old paradigm. And if you look at the individual,
or the dot in the middle, generally in life, we stay within clusters
that we feel comfortable with; there is a sense of security,
there is a sense of affinity, there is a confidence in being a part
of something where we feel the same, and we feel like others. But to flip it on its head, this is the new paradigm to networking
and to relationship building; it’s one where the information is free, it’s one where the information
is shared with other networks, and other clusters, and not
held captive within one cluster. Another concept is this idea to look at oneself
as a broker or a connector. That is an overused term
that you hear quite often, but this idea of brokering or connecting
is extremely powerful. If you look at the two individuals
represented by the red dots, they’re sharing information between
different clusters or different networks. Think about those friends
that always know the greatest music, or the newest book, or the most exciting
movie before anybody else does. They share that information with others. You have to be very confident
to be a broker. There is a confidence
that comes from being a broker and pushing back
against the change and against society. It’s pushing back against
the water and the fish and going against the tide, if you will. It’s easy to stay within one’s network
and one’s cluster, it’s harder to push the change
and push the envelope and go against the grain. I like to think of my life as
how can I spread warmth and generosity to each and every person
that I meet in life. And if you think about it, who doesn’t want to be around somebody
that’s warm, and giving, and caring? At the end of the day, the studies
have shown, science has shown, that people, when you meet
somebody new, and you always measure them
on a sense of warmth and on the sense
of competence or intelligence. Guess which one wins out?
It’s warmth. This is my son. I’m a little biased, I think he is one
of the cutest babies on earth. (Laughter) But with that, I want you to look deeply
into his eyes for a moment. What do you see? I see curiosity, I see an eagerness
and a hunger for life. I want to challenge us all to regain that sense of hunger
and curiosity in life. Curious people are fun,
curious people are present. Curious people are willing
to say, “I don’t know,” or admit when they’re wrong. Curious people are giving.
Curious people are confident, too. At the end of the day, networking
simply is an overused term, but I’d like us to think about it
in three different ways: networking is simply giving
more than getting, it’s listening deeply, and it’s expanding warmth and care
into everyone we meet in life. And at the end of the day,
everyone has a story. The question is: will we listen
long enough to hear it? Thank you. (Applause)

Author: Kevin Mason

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