Costs and Benefits of Networking

Today I had a discussion with colleagues at the International Resources Group here in Washington and they pointed out an interesting dilemma to me:

Yes, if you want to be strategic in your networking, it is important to realize who could be how influential in achieving your goal. But you also have to keep in mind how much it will cost you (not only in terms of money) to enlist these actors for your purpose. Because the more important an actor is (or feels) the more difficult it will become to access this actor. So you might use most of your scarce resources on trying to access one specific influential individual or organization that has the potential to really drive your case forward. But in case you don’t get there or don’t convince them, all your effort is wasted. Or you can take the “cheap” way and just work with easily accessible actors who have a limited reach into the networks you want to impress.

The balance between cost and benefits is obviously different in different projects and the ideal solution is most likely to be a mix of different types of actors. If you want to get to an informed strategic discussion with your team about it, it could make sense to set up the influence towers first (Who can influence how strongly whether we achieve our goals?), discuss about this, note down the height of towers, then clear the map and set up towers indicating the “cost of interaction” with these different actors. After this second round of tower building your team might come to different conclusions about how to network best for your cause.

2 Responses

  1. One can invite the 2nd in-command who can provide input or briefing to an influential actor. A pre work is required prior to the activity or even a follow-up.

  2. Dear Ann Lily,
    You are right, it makes a lot of sense to look at your indirect links to important people and to see whether you know any connectors, who are close enough to you, that they are easily accessible and close enough to the big fish, that they can contact him or her. Often it is easier to get a full picture of these indirect links, if you do network maps with a varied group of people, instead of just mapping out your own perception…

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