Updated October 2019
If you have a chance, I highly recommend reading The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind about William Kamkwamba (there is also a movie on Netflix). It’s a fascinating and inspiring read.
I found out about the book while watching an interview with William years ago on the Daily Show with John Stewart.
At one point, the conversation turns to the fact that William taught himself how to build a windmill and electrical generator without a computer. In fact, at one point, he says about Google, “…I said what kind of animal is this Google?”
Then his response when he first encountered the internet, ” Where was this Google all this time???”
It’s impressive that a kid, who had almost no access to information or tools, created a windmill from scavenged resources. Can you imagine what someone with his ingenuity and drive could have done with early access to the internet?
Connections Create Opportunity
If I was going to build a windmill, the know-how is just a click away (there were 800,000 hits for my recent search “windmill blueprint”). But Google isn’t giving me the knowledge, it’s just providing me access to a network, in the case millions of websites, where I can find the answers. The network is really where the answers are.
For most of us, our daily challenges are not forays into the realms of unknown knowledge.
Somebody, somewhere has probably faced a similar problem and documented their solution.
For example, I was looking for new webinar software the other day. Finding the best solution was as simple as typing “webinar software reviews” into the search box and seeing how other people had fared with different products.
It works the same way with our interpersonal networks. Besides the social value of networking, by building relationships with others, we are giving ourselves access to people who have ideas about the scenarios we face every day.
Have a problem with a co-worker? One of your peers can give you feedback about what they did in a similar situation. Looking to rise in your organization? Maybe a mentor can give you ideas on how to create connections with the right people.
Using LinkedIn to Build Value
That’s why I’m a big fan of social media: it helps build relationships. For example, LinkedIn isn’t about the actual website, it’s a platform to facilitate engagement. It’s about finding ways to connect with each other … and therefore to connect with resources.
We’re all going through our days solving problems, big and small. The solutions to those problems are rarely in our immediate vicinity, but they are in our sphere of influence.
And here’s the stark reality. Your ability to find solutions drives your professional value in a knowledge-based economy (which we most certainly are in). So the larger and more robust your network is, the more access you have to the resources you need to succeed. Because to take it one step further – the value you bring by finding those solutions is directly linked to your paycheck.
That’s why it’s critical that you spend some of your time and attention building your professional relationships. They are the path through which your opportunities and ideas will come.