Flowork - Social Capital Development Network

An interesting conversation with my 5 year old daugther - Perhaps a lesson for effective networking

I picked up my 5 year old daughter from school yesterday and I asked her how was her day. She replied that it had been a productive day although she encountered a bit of problem. I was curious what had happened. She basically said that she wanted to play with a toy that a classmate was already playing with. I asked her what she did? She told the classmate that if he let her play with it that she would play with him the next day! I then asked if she got the toy and she said of course daddy. Of course, I thought to myself, how does a little girl get extended credit.

The short and simple answer to that is 'trust'. The little boy let her have the toy because he trusted (possibly misguided) that my daughter would return the favor. As long as my daughter plays with the boy the next day, future sharing can occur. However, if she doesn't, the repercussions could be steep; her relationship with the boy could be jeopardized as well as her reputation with the rest of the classmates. As I thought about what she had done after we arrived home, I realized that trust and reciprocity happens throughout our whole lives, whether were 5 or 55. The reason we're willing to help out is that we expect something back in return, whether explicit or not. The example of my daughter and the little boy was quite clear; she gets the toy and he gets to play with her the next day.

Present networking practices may not always be as straight forward as this example. We ask a contact for a referral and at the back of their mind they are thinking that the favor will be returned in the future. As long as the favor is returned sharing of resources can continue. This could be a conscious thought or not but it does occur. I wonder what would of happened if my daughter just simply asked for the toy, would the boy have given it to her. Probably at that age they aren't thinking in long term. Short term results is all they're worried about. Unlike adults, we can think longer term. When we help somebody by sharing a resource (i.e. contact, information, knowledge) we're willing to take the chance that they will return the favor. If the favor isn't returned when requested, the likelihood of helping that person in the future most likely won't happen.

The lesson we may be able to take away from this example is that perhaps we can increase our chances of leveraging a resource by being more explicit about what we'll give back in return. If we don't have anything to offer at the moment, we can simply express that if they ever need something they can count on us. My daughter and the little boy had a clear cut arrangement. Both parties knew what they were getting. Instead of my daughter just asking for the toy, she looked at the situation and tried to increase the likelihood that the boy would give it to her - - by offering something in return. When it comes to networking and tapping into the resources that exist, leveraging them through offering something in return my increase our chances. It ultimately becomes, not what I need from you but what I can offer. Something to think about.

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