I was in Kampala, Uganda, earlier this year, for an event I had organized for local women entrepreneurs. One of the invited guests was from Export Uganda and he had a print-out of an article by Rosabeth Moss Canter of Harvard Business School, someone I have enjoyed reading for a while now.
The article was called Using Networking for Competitive Advantage: The Lippo Group of Indonesia and Hong Kong and my guest had underlined the best passages. His presentation captured the heart of what I wanted this meeting to be about: working together for strategic advantage. Let me share his underlined passages with you:
"The Lippo Group is a company that excels at collaborative advantage - building and using connections to open doors, join forces and absorb the knowledge of more-experienced partners.
Their success lies in Networking Principle No. 1: To be desirable partners, network members must bring distinctive resources to the relationship.
Networking Principle No. 2: Networks are strengthened when members place 'side bets' - tangible investments in each other beyond their initial joint venture that signify their commitment to the long-term future of the relationship.
Networking Principle No. 3: Broadening the network as quickly as possible to reach as many places as possible is critical in competitive markets.
Networking Principle No. 4: Cultural assets, such as natural ties of kinship or shared background, rival economic assets in their value for business networks.
Networking Principle No. 5: Every relationship contains the potential for further connections. Cultivating relationsips involves 'making friends', not just making deals - because unknown future possibilities might turn out to be even more significant than today's venture.
Networking Principle No. 6: Relationships for one purpose and in one place, if successful, can open new opportunities or bring prestige in other places with other partners.
Networking Principle No. 7: The value of any part of a network cannot be calculated solely on the basis of the direct economic value located there; it needs to be viewed in terms of increased benefits to other parts of the network or the network as a whole.
Networking Principle No. 8: Networks are learning vehicles that can spread concepts and competences to all parts of the business.
Networking Principle No. 9: Networks with open boundaries willing to spawn additional networks gain more clout than those that remain closed circuits.
Networking Principle No. 10: For networks to continue to create opportunities, all members must derive benefits
Networking Principle No. 11: Organizational networks begin by being joined through direct personal relationships among leaders. But unless they become joined at multiple levels throughout all the organizations, their value will be limited."
"The important thing about networks is not their complexity and lack of permanence. Instead, it is that their existence changes the rules of competition. The rise of formal business networks, of group-to-group competition, puts unconnected companies at a huge and growing disadvantage."
In short, successful organizations understand the possibilities of networks and know how to cultivate them. Do you?