Building win-win relationships is a primary skill for any entrepreneur. Simon Sinek, author of Why Leaders Eat Last, advocates that relationships are not just necessary to our survival as humans, but are key for learning and innovation. Idea festivals such as Startup Grind, Totem Summit, and Names Not Numbers have become incredibly popular, reporting record numbers of attendees. We all crave human connection in a world where we are increasingly detached from real human contact.
Never Eat Alone.
Marie Schneegans is the co-founder and CEO of a French startup, Never Eat Alone. The truth is, if you work in a large company or a startup, chances are you always eat alone at your desk or have lunch with the same people in your department. It’s not easy to meet new people. This is a universal problem for thousands of people around the world: connections are missed, ideas are lost, and the work culture suffers as a result. Never Eat Alone puts an end to this. Its goal is to bring individuals together by using a customized lunch app on your phone. List your background and project interests and you can connect with colleagues who share similar goals. As an employee, you get to proactively reach out to anyone in the company, including the CEO, and for the organization, it’s a great way to build a stronger whole-person culture where people bring more of themselves to work every day.
Your Success Requires The Success of Others.
9others is another such company that knows ideas occur when humans connect and exchange ideas. It was founded on the belief that “your success requires the aid of others.” A host and nine others, made up of entrepreneurs and investors will meet for an informal dinner to mingle, discuss opportunities, and share experiences. It already has a network of more than 3,500 entrepreneurs in thirty-three cities and is leading the way with a more intelligent approach to relationship building.
To get ahead, you should build the social capital, trust, empathy, shared norms, and mutual understanding that underpin any successful business relationship, especially between a founder and his/her team. You can’t build social capital overnight; it’s earned on a daily basis. For example, companies such as Danish toy maker Lego build social capital through the principle of hygge, pronounced “heu-gah”. This is the art of building a strong sense of “we” — a communal space for the hygge spirit to flourish.
Margaret Heffernan, TED speaker and author of Beyond Measure: The Big Impact of Small Changes, says: “In any company, you can have a brilliant bunch of individuals — but what prompts them to share ideas and concerns, contribute to one another’s thinking, and warn the group early about potential risks is their connection to one another. Social capital lies at the heart of just cultures: it is what they depend on — and it is what they generate.”
As conventional hierarchies break down, social capital and informal networks have become a high priority. We are more interdependent on each other now than ever before. The real influencers are the network nodes: if you can’t tap the right people for the right information, it’s going to be difficult to do your job full stop. Business people who are networked are at least three times more influential than people who aren’t.
People have been so obsessed with social networks that they really haven’t noticed the human side, the non-algorithm side, is still where trust is built. I challenge you to see for yourself how great things happen when new ideas and connections collide.