I saw this piece a few years ago in SecondAct.com by Alina Tugend. It makes great sense and I thought it worth sending again. -dpm
We all know people like them, people who seem to know everyone. They're always able to help -- or if they can't, they know someone who can. You meet them for the first time and in 15 minutes, you're talking with them like you're childhood friends. They're successful, smart and funny, with a likable touch of self-deprecation. And they're interested in everything.
Who are they? Connectors. Take Maryam Banikarim, senior vice president and chief marketing officer at Gannett, publisher of USA Today. She has a perfect job for a connector -- she helps link Gannett's various newspapers and media outlets "and bring the pieces together." "I like people and am genuinely curious," says Banikarim, 42. "I like stories and want to make connections. But I didn't know the word for it until my husband read Malcolm Gladwell's The Tipping Point and said, 'I finally have a word for you -- a connector.' " As Gladwell writes, "sprinkled among every walk of life . . . are a handful of people with a truly extraordinary knack of making friends and acquaintances. They are Connectors." Gladwell describes them as having an ability to span many different worlds, subcultures and niches.
Traits such as energy, insatiable curiosity and a willingness to take chances seem to be the common thread among connectors -- as well as an insistence that connecting is not the same as networking. "Networking I see as a means to an end," says Jill Leiderman, executive producer of the late-night show Jimmy Kimmel Live. But connecting, she explains, is about using a genuine love of meeting people and making friends to engage and assist one another.
Connectors show a willingness to venture outside their comfort zones. For example, comedy writer Josh Bycel (shown top) visited a Darfur refugee camp a number of years ago, and on the way home he came up with the idea of raising money for a medical clinic for the camp. In three weeks, he had collected $50,000. That idea grew into a nonprofit called OneKid OneWorld, which aims to connect schools in the United States with those in Kenya and other developing countries to provide everything from books to clean water.
"I'm a comedy writer. I don't know anything about building schools," says Bycel, 40, who lives in Los Angeles. "But I'm interested in learning. You need to get out and make connections outside of your own world. Being interested in lots of different things by definition allows you to be a connector."
The willingness to reach out to someone you don't know is crucial to the art of connecting, and especially important in uncertain economic times. Those who are in mid-career and may have worked for one company for years should learn connecting skills before they need them.For instance, most people's natural inclination is to seek out friends at meetings and mealtimes. Banikarim says not to do that. "It's easy to sit with someone you know," she says. "It's hard, but more interesting, to sit with someone you don't know. This is not like high school. It's not just the losers who don't have somewhere to sit."
It may seem as if connectors are born, not made, but that's not necessarily true. Banikarim was forced to learn to reach out to people from an early age. She moved with her family from Iran to Paris in 1979, then to Northern California, where there wasn't an Iranian community. "I was often that new kid," she says. When she started college at Barnard, "I knew it was either sink or swim. The first week of school, I joined every club and went to every meeting. I ended up as freshman class president."
Joining clubs and organizations is a terrific way to find like-minded people, but only go when you have an interest -- and don't attend endless networking get-togethers. Keith Ferrazzi, author of Never Eat Alone, says he has never been to an official networking event. Instead, he advises, join organizations that focus on the events and activities you love."I have a friend who is the executive vice president of a large bank in Charlotte," he writes in his book. "His networking hotspot is, of all places, the YMCA. He tells me that at 5 and 6 in the morning, the place is buzzing with exercise fanatics like himself getting in a workout before they go to the office. He scouts the place for entrepreneurs, current customers and prospects." Of course, when you're walking into that first meeting or class and facing a bunch of strangers, the instinct is to flee. That's all right. The point is not to ignore the fear, but acknowledge it -- and then work through it. "I sort of just run into fear, as I run into chaos," says Banikarim, whom The New York Post named one of the 50 most powerful women in New York City in 2008 when she worked at Univision. "You breathe deep, and you have to remember that everyone is scared."
Perhaps one of the most important attributes of a connector is a willingness to help and to reach out even if there is no obvious or immediate payback. That means thinking long-term. Jen Singer is the founder of the blog Mommasaid.net, author of five books, a Pull-Ups spokeswoman and an undeniable connector. "The biggest mistake people make is they think that 'if I help this person, something will happen immediately.' We have to stop thinking in linear terms," she says.
Helping others out doesn't mean you can't hold some things back. Singer, 44, uses the word "coopetition" -- a combination of competition and cooperation -- to describe her philosophy. "I think this generation understands you share, but also protect your own interests -- you don't give a key to everything you have. It's a line you have to learn to walk."
Finally, a connector also occasionally has to disconnect. Leiderman says her boyfriend "has taken away my Smartphone so I can super-connect with him."
Monday, February 15, 2016
[Editor's Note: When we initially published this article, most business leaders were still expecting a "normal" recession and recovery cycle. We now know that we have seen a combination of uncertainty and slow growth. While many companies have reacted relatively passively, some are changing the dynamics. We have updated the article, but surprisingly, many of the observations are still present.What are your thoughts? Do these possible scenarios of the future still hold true? I hope you find this thought-provoking. - DPM]
This describes a situation where external events will be unknown and surprising, and companies will respond to them in a predominantly passive and reactive manner.
This, clearly, is the worst-case scenario. In this situation, "unexpected and disruptive events will increase over the next several years, and companies (and/or economies) will react by pulling into a protective shell." The external shocks could include economic developments such as the nationalization of major global industries (like oil, banking, auto) and significant disruptions to global material flows. On the political front, terrorist attacks could continue to escalate in different parts of the world, and the U.S. led anti-terrorism effort could fall apart. Isolationism and protectionism may gain strength. Companies (could) react by trying to protect existing assets with layoffs, reduced R&D investment, reduced product development, and lower foreign direct investment. Consumers may compound the problem by reducing spending dramatically.
The bottom line in this scenario: A long, global recession
2. Slow Growth:
This scenario predicts a future where external events will be known and expected, but companies will respond passively to them.
This, too, is a relatively grim scenario, though not as irredeemably dismal as the previous one. In this case, "disruptive events with moderate impact continue, and while seen as normal, they result in an economic malaise." This scenario would be marked by debt and currency problems in key world economies, though a full-blown long-term global recession may be avoided. Unemployment (or Underemployment) would be higher but manageable, but consumer confidence would be low. Politically, the war against terrorism could head toward a stalemate situation. Companies would get used to the risks of terrorism and learn to cope with their losses. They would make modest investments.
The bottom line in this scenario: Life becomes an overpowering shade of gray
3. Thriving With Chaos:
Here, external events will be unknown and surprising, but companies will respond mostly in an active and opportunistic fashion.
In this scenario life is still gray, but sunlight filters through the gloom in some areas. "Unpredictable disruptive external events" would continue, but "corporate and national resolve to be successful in the face of adversity" would drive modest prosperity. While uncertainty would continue, it would be considered a cost of doing business. Companies would try to seize business opportunities amid the disruption and uncertainties, and make increasing investments in areas that seem to be potentially profitable. In the political arena, the continued global realignment of the U.S. with Russia and China would continue to open up new market opportunities, but the Islamic countries crippled by terrorism and some developing nations could be shut out of these new alliances. The war against terrorism would continue without a clear victory.
The bottom line: Life could be better, but there's money to be made if you know where to look.
4. Global Growth: In this scenario, external events will be known and expected, and companies will respond actively and aggressively.
This, clearly, is the best-case scenario, one in which "countries and peoples of the world recognize common goals and focus on economic development and peace as the route to permanent stability." The key features of this scenario would be that the business cycle would return to normal; the global "coalition" against terrorism would evolve into a coalition for peace and commerce, and the threat of terrorism would fade. Oversupply of oil would transform the role of oil in Middle Eastern politics. Consumers would feel confident about the future, increase their spending, and lay the foundations of a sustained economic recovery. Trade barriers would be lowered and the developing economies would grow in tandem with the developed ones.
If these four scenarios - or a combination of them - represent what lies ahead in the next few years, what strategies should companies put in place today to deal with them? Clearly, though, neither these scenarios nor the strategies that follow from them will apply across the board. The scenarios will play out differently not only in different industries, but also in various regions of the world. Accordingly, the strategies that companies develop to cope with these situations will need to vary to reflect these differences.
It would be a mistake to allow the uncertainties that prevail today to put business decision making on hold. The future may be unclear, but one thing is certain: In today's circumstances, scenario planning is more than a tool. It is a weapon to combat uncertainty, and the future will belong to companies and executives that wield it well.
How well is your company prepared to respond? Are you taking control of the things that you can? Are your actions strengthening your company - or weakening it? Are you building flexibility into your plans? Have you changed your approach to planning?
The Mead Consulting Group helps dozens of companies and organizations - like yours - every year with scenario planning. The process has helped our clients consistently outperform their competition.
¹Excerpted from 12 CEO Diseases and How to Treat Them, Dr. Robert Lawrence Kuhn, CEO Magazine, October/November.