The 3 Secrets to Achieving More Through LinkedIn

We have heard it a thousand times: when it comes to advancing our career, it’s “all about who you know.” Many people believe that more relationships equals more opportunity. We accumulate as many LinkedIn contacts as possible, but will a deeper rolodex actually make a difference? Simply building a network doesn’t lead to measurable change. The key is how you use that network by developing “connectional intelligence.”

The conversation needs to shift from quantity of connections to quality. Building relationships that lead to meaningful change involves making the smart connections, getting the right people together, collecting the important data and using resources in the smartest way, not just attracting the most clicks.

In our new book, Get Big Things Done, my co-author Saj-nicole Joni and I define “connectional intelligence” as the ability to combine knowledge, ambition and human capital, forging connections on a global scale that create unprecedented value and meaning. It is the key skill that 21st century innovators use to maximize their networks and drive breakthrough results. Luckily, it is a skill we can all develop.

10 years ago, Malcolm Gladwell identified the central role that “connectors” play in the creation of social movements. While revolutionary at the time, this terminology now seems narrow and outdated. Although only a certain portion of people may have been “connectors” back then, in today’s world, everyone must be a connector. The big question to ask now is not how many contacts you have, but rather: how can you leverage your connections to create value and meaning in your life, community, career and organization?

Here are our top 3 ways to use your LinkedIn contacts to make a difference:

1. Look to your competition for collaboration

When trying to get big things done, seek opportunities with your competitors. Look at people who work in your field that you might normally view as competition. Ask yourself how you could support each other and work together. Consider the company Quirky, an online product development platform. Its products are sold in 30,000 retail stores in outlets ranging from the MOMA design store to Target and Best Buy. This might seem like a threat to another big manufacturer like General Electric. Instead of trying to just make something better, GE teamed up with Quirky, a move that might seem heretical to our ideas of capitalist competition. Through their partnership, GE is sharing its patents and technologies with Quirky’s product development team. The first collaboration between GE and Quirky led to the creation of one of Quirky’s most popular products, a “smart air conditioner” called Aros. We can all use this example when we are trying to leverage our LinkedIn connections. Chances are your competition is probably following you on LinkedIn, just waiting for an opportunity to collaborate.

2. Reimagine what your skills could be used for.

Get you out of your comfort zone and rethink how you can use your skills and your contacts. Be creative about how you partner with people in other industries and how you apply your skills in a different context.

Take the story of CrowdMed, an online platform which harnesses the wisdom of crowds to help solve the world’s most difficult medical cases, founded by Jared Heyman. Before starting CrowdMed, Heyman worked for 15 years in the internet technology industry. When faced with his little sister’s medical crisis, he took the skills he had from working at an online survey company and applied them to create a radically new platform for the diagnosis of rare diseases. It was his ability to take his skills and apply them in a different field that led to the creation of something with such huge impact like CrowdMed, diagnosing hundreds of medical cases that doctors weren’t able to solve.

3. Start or join courageous conversations.

After you network with new people at an event, start a discussion online about it. Share three things that really challenged your perceptions with other attendees and ask them to join in. Be willing to be controversial but not confrontational. Once you have a good thread going, think about how you can take what is discussed online and transfer that into real world business solutions.

Spend time getting to know new people from the conversation, especially if it is someone you disagree with. Take a risk and after you introduce yourself on LinkedIn, ask someone for coffee or a virtual Skype meeting who has a radically different career or perspective on life than you do. Our greatest sources of help might come from where you least expect it.

The key is not contacts; it is connection. Using these three techniques, we can all foster connectional intelligence to get big things done.

This post was originally published on Ellevate and shared with permission.

Erica Dhawan is the co-author of the new book Get Big Things Done: The Power of Connectional Intelligence by Erica Dhawan and Saj-nicole Joni. She is the CEO of Cotential, a global consultancy that enables organizations to accelerate the connectedness of their teams, clients and other stakeholders. Follow Erica on Facebook and Twitter.

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