“I don’t want to belong to any club that will accept people like me as a member.” Groucho Marx
On receipt of the Nobel Peace Prize, Aung San Suu Kyi declared that “What the Nobel Peace Prize did was to draw me once again into the world of other human beings” (Acharya, 2012). In our digital, global and democratic international community, networks are the foundation of society. It is a word that defines our generation. Online social networks allow us to connect and reconnect with friends old and new, and formal networks are paramount in the workplace.
John Holden and Robert Hewison have written a number of applied research papers on areas including cultural diplomacy, theatre, leadership, organisational structure, etc. Robert Hewison has done specific work on formal and organic networks, suggesting that although they may seem ‘mechanistic’ and planned, social interactions are rather more biological. “The field might be described as a pattern of enzymes, as a network that forms itself” (Hewison, 2014). What I understand by this is that it is not enough just to remain in your own structured network, one must draw on different sources, from different specialties, even different industries.
Both associates at DEMOS, Holden and Hewison are frequently asked to contribute to reports and pamphlets, based upon their reputations and the circles in which they operate. New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman emphasises the importance of not just getting the work done, but doing the right work. On the flat world platform (Friedman, 2005), which is based on rapid international dialogue and collaboration, we compete not only with peers in our own country, but all over the world. To get onto the career ladder, young people are commonly told it is ‘who you know’ not ‘what you know’ that is important. It is possibly one of the biggest concerns today; finding people who can help us get where we want in the industry of our choice, and LinkedIn is not enough.
Proactivity is another key word for our generation; proactivity to make the necessary connections. The joys of online professional networks such as LinkedIn mean that it is relatively easy to find the contact details for anyone.
Networks both physical and digital are, in theory, hugely enabling for anyone with access. I have highlighted two key concepts that define our generation; the network and proactivity. I’ll leave you with one more: luck.