Innovation for introverts

Innovation for introverts

I know it might be surprising I feel like this, given I run training on networking and I lead the Lucidity Network (which involves networking). Perhaps the reason I do both of these things is because I know how important networking is to pretty much everything and also how difficult it can be, so I just want to make it as easy and pain-free as possible for people.

I define introversion and extroversion as where you get your energy from. As an introvert, I get my energy from being by myself. Extroverts get their energy from other people. You’re not stuck in an introvert or extrovert box though. It’s like a spectrum. I sit towards the middle of the introvert side of the spectrum, and I can switch on my inner extrovert when needed, for example, if I’m at a conference, running training or presenting. I just have to go home afterwards and be on my own to refuel.

One isn’t better than the other, it’s just useful to understand your own preferences and those of the people you work with so you can adapt your communication to get the best out of both introverts and extroverts.

Last week I prized myself off my sofa into the cold and dark November night to go to the 100%Open Union networking event on innovation for introverts.

Here’s what I took away

When it comes to innovation introverts come into their own.

  • They have no need for external affirmation
  • They make order out of chaos
  • They are the best listeners
  • They connect disparate dots that may save the business.

 

To get better results make sure you are engaging both introverts and extroverts.

Here’s how;

Often it’s just the loudest people that get listened to. If you manage a team make sure you make space for introverts to be heard. This takes the form of great facilitation and good planning, for example, ensuring everyone has the opportunity to speak in meetings and structuring ideas sessions with some tasks that people can do on their own.

A web-based platform or community is a good way to solicit ideas from everyone (we heard from Waitrose and how this approach has lead to a range of new business ideas).

Offer quiet zones at work especially if you work in an open plan office

Encourage introverts to lead, chair meetings, present on topics, lead projects.

Become aware of the loudest voices, encourage them but do not allow them to be the only voice that is heard.

Let me know how you get on.

I’ve designed the Lucidity Network to be a place for introverts and extroverts. It’s a pick and mix of online and offline learning and connection to a dynamic network of people that can help you. We’re open for new members a few times a year. Join the Lucidity Community Facebook group to get in the Lucidity groove for clearer thinking and better results and be the first to hear when the Lucidity Network is open for members.

Do you know what your old classmates are up to?

School classroom, apple resting on top of some books

Think back to when you were at school. What do you remember? The smell of the school hall (kind of musty gym kits and disinfectant) cross country in the freezing rain or drinking warm milk out of a glass bottle with a straw?

What about the people? Did you have a favourite teacher? We all loved Mr Sykes (I wrote about him before) none of us did very well at French with Ms Schmidt and we were all a bit scared of Mr Callard.

What about your classmates? That time when Daniel Savage shaved half his eyebrow off in geography class, when Stephen Perkins did a loud fart in a maths exam or when Sharon Taylor got caught smoking behind the bike sheds?

Are you still in touch with any of them?

Who you know matters

I’m still in touch with some classmates from school. Some I still see regularly, others I’ve not seen for years but we know what each other are up to because of the wonder of Facebook.

There is a saying that ‘it’s not what you know but who you know’. I do think you need to know some stuff, and I do agree that who you know is more valuable.

Research into human networks show that large and diverse networks can bring benefits to both your professional and private life. However, it’s not necessarily in your immediate network that the magic lies. It’s in the weak ties. It’s the people that you know less well, that are outside of your immediate circle that are more likely to facilitate your next promotion, your new job or even your next relationship.

And your weak ties include those classmates from school – those people that at one point in your life you had much in common and spent a great deal of time with. What are they up to now?

Often I’ll ask Facebook for help and advice, for example recommendations for places to visit or expertise on a topic (you may have even helped with jogging memories from school in this blog). I’ve asked my friends to buy my book (thank you) and back a crowdfund (thank you again) and whilst I’ve not done a detailed analysis of which friends help out, it does feel that there is a disproportionately high number of classmates that have helped (thank you). For example:

When I was writing the Innovation Leadership Report I was looking for innovators; those doing something new and I remembered my old school friend Neil Cloughley was working on a hybrid aircraft. I asked if I could interview him. No problem. We did talk about guinea pigs for a bit because that is the main thing he remembered about me, but once we’d discussed Biggles and Fergie I got to learn about his vision for his aviation company. You can check out the original article here.

When I launched my book to get my Amazon ranking up which (sadly) is important I promoted it everywhere. If you are my friend on Facebook you’ll already know this. One friend from school said, ‘I’ve not seen you in 25 years, I only know you through Facebook and you want me to buy your book?’

‘Of course I will!’

One classmate worked at a marketing agency that the organisation I was working with had been trying to get an introduction to for a long time. When I asked it was no problem to introduce me to the right senior executive and arrange a meeting that I’d never have got without a personal contact.

And when people help you out – you step forward to do the same back when asked. And that’s how networks and weak ties work.

I’ve talked about school, but you’ll have weak ties from many different parts of your life, for example college, university or a Saturday job. Who are those friends who you’ve lost touch with and what are they up to now? I encourage you to get in touch and find out. You just might be able to help them too.

Who you know is so much more important than what you know, yet many people don’t nurture their networks. So I’ve created a ready made Network for you. Its called the Lucidity Network and its a pick and mix of real life connections, online resources and inspiration to help you get better results.

We’re open for new members a few times a year. Sign up to the waiting list to be the first to know when the Network is open for new members. In the meantime you can join the Lucidity Community free Facebook group  for clearer thinking and better results.  

Who you know is how you get stuff done

Business people connecting puzzle pieces - who you know is how you get stuff done

Think about how you usually get stuff done. I mean the important stuff, how you will get your next job, find your next exciting holiday destination or make your ideas happen?

I believe that important stuff gets done because of the people you know as well as the people who know the people you know. It’s all about networks.

Consider this. Someone asks you for a favour. How do you decide whether you do it? From my experience there are three key factors;

  • What’s in it for you? – for example, will you enjoy it, will it be a good experience, will you learn something new, will it raise your profile, fill empty time, make you feel good?
  • How they ask – have they thought about what’s in it for you, have they asked you, well ‘nicely’, have they overcome and obstacles that might prevent you from doing the favour?
  • Do you know, like them and trust them? – how well do you know them, are they credible, do you like them, would you feel good to help them out?

When these three factors are in all place stuff gets done. If one or more factor isn’t quite right stuff stalls.

Think about it, someone you know like and trust asks if you would meet a colleague to give them some advice. They know your time is limited so they offer that the meeting is near your office at a time that suits you. They know you like coffee in the morning, so they suggest your favourite local coffee shop for breakfast as the meeting place. They are appreciative that you would consider helping them out. They also suggest that the colleague might have skills and experience that could help you with a project you are working on.

You are busy.  You are more likely to do the favour because you know, like and trust the person, they asked you well and they spelled out what could be in it for you.

All the factors compound, if someone you didn’t know or like, or didn’t ask well or didn’t make it clear what was in it for you you’d be much less inclined to say yes.

So, it makes good business sense to get to know your colleagues, because more stuff will get done.

And when it comes to innovation having a diverse network is important. Research shows that humans tend to gravitate to other people like them, people from similar backgrounds, with similar viewpoints. When we all have a similar experience, we start to think the same. We start to operate in an echo chamber of our own similar ideas. If innovation is about thinking differently and developing new ideas then we need people in our network that are different from us, that will challenge and build on our ideas. And because we naturally gravitate to people like us we need to be deliberate about seeking out a diverse network made up of different experiences, perspectives and thinking. That’s where, I believe, successful innovation lies.

One of the reasons I’ve set up the Lucidity Network – a pick and mix of online and offline practical tools and advice as well as access to a dynamic network of expertise. Already we have members from a mix of sectors from around the world. We’re open for new members a few times a year. Sign up to the waiting list to be the first to know when the Network is open for new members. In the meantime you can join the Lucidity Community free Facebook group  for clearer thinking and better results.  

Who you know is 97% of everything

Think about how you usually get stuff done. I don’t mean doing the washing or plodding though your to-do list.

I mean the important stuff, how you will get your next job, find your next exciting holiday destination or make your ideas happen?

I believe that important stuff gets done because of the people you know. Who you know is 97% of everything.

Consider this. Someone asks you for a favour. How do you decide whether you do it? From my experience there are three key factors;

  • What’s in it for you? – for example, will you enjoy it, will it be a good experience, will you learn something new, will it raise your profile, fill empty time, make you feel good?
  • How they ask – have they thought about what’s in if for you, have they asked you well, have they overcome any obstacles that might prevent you from doing the favour?
  • Do you know, like and trust them? – how well do you know them, are they credible, would you feel good to help them out?

When these three factors are in all place stuff gets done. If one or more factor isn’t quite right stuff stalls.

Think about it, someone you know, like and trust asks if you would meet a colleague to give them some advice. They know your time is limited, so they offer that the meeting is near your office at a time that suits you. They know you like coffee in the morning, so they suggest your favourite local coffee shop for breakfast as the meeting place. They are appreciative that you would consider helping them out. They also suggest that the colleague might have skills and experience that could help you with a project you are working on.

You are busy. You are more likely to do the favour because you know, like and trust the person, they asked you well and they spelled out what could be in it for you.

All the factors compound, if someone you didn’t know, or like, or didn’t ask well, or didn’t make it clear what was in it for you you’d be much less inclined to say yes.

So it makes good business sense to get to know your colleagues, because more stuff will get done.

Innocent leapt to fame in 1999 when three friends asked their customers at a music festival whether they should quit their day jobs and make smoothies. Their customers said just do it – so they did. One of Innocent’s strategies was to drive business growth through a culture of innovation. They allocate seating randomly, including management so people get to know and understand different functions. They have communal kitchen space and employees are encouraged to hang out there, have meetings, eat cake and fill up with smoothies. The office design has multiple social spaces that encourage informal meetings; water cooler moments. There is a social atmosphere and all sorts of activities from knitting to karate are encouraged. There is something important about building ideas together, but also an acknowledgment that innovation can be tricky and you have more chance of working through problems and differences if you have eaten cake and drunk tea together sat astride a giant banana. *

At Innocent, it’s not just nice that there is cake, (to be clear, having cake is nice) the core motivation to socialise is driven by the business need for different teams to know, like and trust each other because it impacts on the bottom line.

This applies outside the office too. The more people who you know and know you, the wider the network you have to call on to help you get your stuff done.

At Lucidity we’ve learned that people don’t really like networking, even though it is one of the most important skills for business. So we’ve developed networking training for teams to help get over the fear of going to a networking event and help you make friends and influence people while you are there.

‘Your practical tips on how to gracefully enter (and exit!) conversations at networking events will be very useful!’ Networking training delegate

For more information about networking training drop us a line at lucy@lucidity.org.uk.

*Taken from The Innovation Workout

Networking: how the weakest link could be your competitive advantage

In my experience the people who are the most successful at getting the work done are the ones that get on well with others. When we have good relationships, colleagues, business partners and friends go out of their way to help us, and we do the same for those people we like and trust, either first, or in return.

Building solid relationships and networks, to solve problems, offer support and guidance or even just to throw in the occasional word of encouragement or pat on the back could be the difference between success and failure.

There is however a paradox, that the weak ties in your network, the ones where you are an acquaintance rather than a great buddy are the ones that offer you the most opportunity.

As far back as the 1970’s, sociologist Mark Granovetter researched the strength of weak ties and found that in marketing, information science, or politics, weak ties enable reaching populations and audiences that are not accessible via strong ties.

This means that recommendations and referrals are becoming more important than ever before. If the opportunities are bigger with weak ties, being on the edge of networks or the only common link between groups of people has definite advantages.

Yet, despite this insight, we more often than not huddle together with the people we already know at conferences and events. It feels safer that way. It’s important to get on with our colleagues. Right?

Or we go to the same events year in and year out and meet the same people we already know time and time again.

And when ‘networking’ is mentioned as an activity we tend to shudder and come over in a cold sweat. The thought of attending a networking event, showing up in a roomful of strangers armed with business cards and ready to make polite conversation fills us with dread.

That’s why at Lucidity we’ve developed networking training for teams to help you overcome your fear, develop weak ties, put yourself in the position to have more opportunities and perhaps even enjoy yourself in the process.

If you’d like some more information then get in touch, but for now here’s three tips for free.

Three tips for better networking

  1. Go to events that are outside of your ‘usual’ network, where there will be opportunities to meet different people who you can form those weak ties with
  2. Approach networking with an attitude of how you might be able to help solve problems for other people in the room
  3. Learn tips to politely excuse yourself from discussions you don’t get stuck in boring conversations.