“Is the key to success today to ensure that your ideas go viral?” That was one of the questions that came up on one of our recent Advantary thought leadership roundtables. Whenever I hear that question, it makes me cringe.
It’s true that in many corners of the marketing world having your content go viral is billed as a silver bullet; it’s the answer to the attention your brand needs. Countless websites give advice on social media hacks that tap into our fundamental human characteristics — our emotions, our need to belong, and our desire to be entertained. They share ‘how to’s’ on what it takes to engage a neurochemical reaction in people that encourages them to share whatever they are reading or seeing.
But if there’s one thing that 2020 has taught us, it’s that viruses are not something we should want more of. The spread of COVID-19 has shown us that when something goes viral it is actually an indicator of a weakness within a system. It has also taught us that viruses spread unevenly and have unequal impact. Neither of those sound like the sorts of attributes that we want to emulate when we’re trying to build our businesses or gain traction for our important ideas.
Instead, We Need to Focus on Building Our Resilience
My colleague, Giulia Davis, recently wrote about “Resalio” or resilience as a strategic advantage for organizations. Harnessing or building resilience is a critical line of defense, and we do that by honoring and welcoming individual differences or diversity.
Interestingly, the search for a COVID-19 vaccine was designed with this in mind. A large number of companies and joint ventures (and subsequently thousands of public and private researchers from immunology to pharmacology) received significant support in their efforts to create a vaccine because multiple, distinct approaches were more likely to result in a more effective outcome. No one effort could be expected to come to an optimal solution, but a portfolio of tactics increases the likelihood of a useful defense. By activating and incentivizing the collective wisdom and expertise of industries, organizations, and individuals, we are more likely to come up with strategies that change (and save) lives. We need to take a similar approach to our own businesses.
To Build Resilience, We Must Focus on Creating a Diverse Network
Unfortunately, as business owners and leaders, we have no idea how and where the next challenge will come from, or indeed which may result in an opportunity. Since it is difficult to assemble the exact, specific resources and skills ahead of the challenge arriving, instead, business leaders need to be actively cultivating and harnessing diversity as a strategic advantage. In this vein, proactively assembling a diverse network across a number of dimensions provides more possibilities that we will be able to leverage whatever challenge comes our way to our advantage.
Ideas, innovation, and the ability to find opportunity where others see merely problems — these all come from access to novel information and approaches and an ability to connect the dots. A diverse network is the best way to guarantee that we can learn about and tap into novel information and have access to those who can identify a more innovative approach. If we stay siloed in our own industry, our own community or our own way of thinking we have less dots to connect, which inherently makes us less creative and less likely to identify unique opportunities before others see them.
It’s True – Building An Effective Network Is Hard
Our individual histories provide a number of barriers to developing an effective network: geography, socioeconomic class, educational opportunities, previous career choices, and more. Beyond that, there are the myriad other urgent and important tasks that fill up our daily headspace, both at work and at home. Even when we know the opportunity cost of not developing our network is high, there is still too much friction.
Add to that, building trust with those outside our sphere of influence — with those who we didn’t grow up with, haven’t worked with, or who just don’t look, sound or think like us is inherently difficult. We need to not just step out of our comfort zone, we need to be open to the possibility that someone who doesn’t share our background or life experiences can bring something to the table, can teach us something, and can even create a connection to that one missing piece of a puzzle we might not even know we were trying to solve.
We Believe There’s A Better Way
Fundamental to our values at Advantary is finding ways to drive the development of meaningful and useful networks, for our organization and for our clients and partners. We don’t advocate for building a network for the sake of having a network; we believe a network built with intention can be leveraged to develop mutually beneficial outcomes. We actively seek to expand the nodes in our network, and the diversity of those nodes across as many dimensions as possible, because we know each network connection is a source of resilience and innovation.
If you’re ready to take the first step to assembling your own diverse network, we invite you to join one of our upcoming roundtables. There, we live out our values by bringing together business leaders from across the globe to explore and strengthen their businesses by learning from and allying with each other. We build our roundtables in a way that doesn’t just encourage diverse thinking, but creates a chance to build trust by allowing everyone to learn from and with one another.
All roundtable participants are known as panelists and they are invited onto an equal playing field, whether they are from the utility, SAAS, fashion or mortgage industry. Everyone is positioned as an expert and our moderators create the conditions for each to tap into the expertise of the others at the table. By bringing subject matter experts to each session, we also invite panelists to expand their knowledge base and begin to think about their businesses in new ways.
By selecting high quality network members who understand the power of a strong collective and then encouraging them to intentionally harness the power of that network, we are helping each member of the Advantary community build a truly innovative and resilient business that drives progress for their employees, their communities and their industries.
As you consider building lasting advantage, remember – “going viral” exploits weakness, your network employs strength! If you’re ready to step into a stronger future, apply to be a member of the Advantary network today.
Matt Sitter is a Partner at Advantary, LLC and provides operations, strategy, and executive coaching services in Advantary’s Executive Capital Practice. Matt is passionate about team collaboration and the power of networks. He is especially grateful for friends like Denise Brosseau and Eric Vallone to pound his ideas into shape!
Prior to joining Advantary, Matt held leadership positions with the advisory firms CrossLead, Inc. and the McChrystal Group. Matt is an ICF credentialed executive coach, has led a wide variety of functional and cross-functional teams and served on multiple executive management teams. He received his BA from Brown University and MBA from the Tuck School at Dartmouth.