Friday, 16 April 2010

Meeting New People

Do you go out of your way to meet new people?

If you work in an organisation living and breathing a single business culture you can get entrenched in a clique hanging out with the same bunch of people, having the same sort of discussions, about the same sort of things. Yawn.

How about going out of your comfort zone to spend time with different people? Crossing those borders can stimulate and enrich your business/ work life in directions you might never have anticipated.

I’ve made a conscious effort to meet new people in 2010. Not as part of some business-development drive but in a desire to enrich my work life, building social capital along the way.

I try to steer clear of traditional networking events because they can feel so contrived. The relationships I established at places like SXSW were inevitably in a bar, on a bus, on a rooftop or on a ‘plane - not in the convention centre. Of course, Twitter is also a great tool for meeting new people, and in the last year I’ve met 20 or 30 people face to face who I first connected with via a tweet. 

When I was reading Tom Peters’ ‘Little Big Things’ on the train yesterday I was reminded that in business "He/She who has the best story wins"; and that’s what meeting new people is all about, hearing their stories, sharing stories and adding to your own story.

Of the new people I met this week, from guests at a 100th birthday party to someone I met via Twitter, one meeting was actually a reunion with a guy I met when I was a kid on holiday. In Wales in 1978 we met an American family; we kept in touch for a couple of years with the guy who was there with his sister’s family. He went on to become a Superior Court Judge in LA, and last night 32 years on – via Google search - we got reacquainted*. There was no motive for meeting, other than he was a ‘nice bloke’ and it was great to meet properly, to share stories over a glass of wine.

So if you want to grow your network, forget a carefully formulated strategy; instead just open your mind to connect with people you would not usually hang out with.

* Photo: Richard F. Charvat and Ian Sanders, London April 2010

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