Maybe Networking Really Is Rocket Science

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As is true of many sales types, I am a refugee from science in all its myriad forms.  Someone once explained to me how the laws or aerodynamics make it possible for a 870,000-pound airplane with 400 passengers to lift off and fly across the Atlantic.  I still suspect the real reason is that God holds it in the palm of His hand.  I never imagined there was such a thing as a scientific study that proved the value of networking.  I never imagined it because I couldn’t imagine it.

However, there is one.  In the Harvard Business Review, Robert Kelley and Judith Caplan wrote about a study they conducted of Bell Lab engineers to determine what attributes separated the 15 to 20 percent whom their peer group nominated as “stars” from the average performers. Daniel Goldman reported the results in his popular book Emotional Intelligence.

“One of the most important turned out to be a rapport with a network of key people.  Things go more smoothly for the standouts because they put time into cultivating good relationships with people whose services might be needed in a crunch as part of an instant ad hoc team to solve a problem or handle a crisis.”

Why does it matter that “stars” in science network well?  After all, scientific superstars are supposed to be loner nerds in white coats who wear coaster-sized eyeglasses.mm

It matters because superior technical networkers are the ones who:

  • Know where the grants and the research money are available and know who controls the purse strings, so that they can get a fistful of the dough.
  • Dial up the best people in their specialty to get an answer when they are stuck with a problem.
  • Know how to get their patents and discoveries celebrated in the press to help them become rich and famous.
  • Are most likely to be confided in by their peers… and are therefore likeliest to become “hubs” in their disciplines.
  • Hey, so it takes me 300 pages to say the same thing.
  • Ain’t science grand?
  • All together now, finish this sentence: “it isn’t what you know, it’s…”

Mackay’s Maxim: Networking may not be rocket science, but studies prove it works for rocket scientists.

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