(Social) Networking and Problem Solving

Monday, 09 April 2012 06:30
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Networking involves utilizing our connections to reach the solutions we seek. Do you and your company fully utilize your networks to help solve your challenges?

(Social) Networking and Problem Solving

Forrester's 2012 Global State of Open Innovation Study reports that 77% of executives agreed or strongly agreed with a statement that Problem/Solver Networks are a characteristic initiative of Open Innovation. With this in mind, how resourceful and effective is your company at activating various and varied networks to help solve its innovation challenges? Many firms currently engage in outreach with a variety of internal and external resources including company experts, suppliers, universities, and innovation intermediaries. Still, even more extensive, indirect (i.e. "social networking") approaches may be necessary to solve specific problems.

Today, companies approach some external solution challenges by having publicizing their needs to general or specialized audiences. They hope that sufficient numbers of qualified individuals will respond with attractive options that provide precise solutions or suggest solution domains worthy of further exploration. Additional, simultaneous networking approaches would likely yield even greater numbers of viable solutions, though this can require that they traverse an indirect and iterative path.

As a simple example, a client asks Jim to help secure a particular material that will enable them to produce experimental packaging prototypes. Jim makes inquiry with his packaging engineer colleagues. One of them directs him to a supplier with skills and knowledge in the area of interest. A conversation with this supplier reveals that the material Jim seeks was developed by a consumer product goods manufacturer rather than an external supplier. The supplier shares a contact name with Jim to help him on his way, and then Jim navigates to the appropriate connection within this company. Ultimately, he is able to secure the desired packaging material samples. As this example demonstrates, an iterative, networked approach may be necessary in order to solve some challenging problems which might not be as easily solved another way. After all, it is questionable as to whether the consumer products manufacturer posessing the material that the client sought would even consider responding to a public challenge. In other words, some problem solving just requires savvy networking and a lot of determined legwork.

In summary, companies currently utilize networks to help solve their challenges. Their problem solving ability can significantly increase as they expand the number and types of networks that they activate. Does your company have a networking strategy and action plan to secure the solutions it covets?

What are your thoughts on this topic? 


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