A common belief is that who you know influences your level of business success. But Alan Gregerman, PhD, author of The Necessity of Strangers, makes the case that who we don’t know may be more important. Here, Gregerman explains to Managing People at Work’s Beth Braccio Hering why it’s so important to connect with strangers:
MPAW: Why isn’t it best to rely on friends and our existing networks to grow?
Gregerman: Your friends and existing networks are tremendous assets in your growth and success, but they’re simply not enough. Sometimes they are too much like you to help solve problems or create new opportunities, and sometimes they just confirm what you already think or believe. Relying only on friends and colleagues limits your access to a world of cool and powerful ideas. Imagine that you could connect with anyone in the world. Wouldn’t that be awesome? Well, today you can, and you can combine what others know with what you, your friends, co-workers, neighbors and other contacts know to realize your full potential. All it takes is a sense of curiosity, openness and a pair of comfortable shoes or your most-trusted search engine.
MPAW: What business challenges can engaging with strangers help solve?
Gregerman: Connecting with and learning from people who are very different than you are is key to developing better products, services, customer experiences and business practices. An increasing number of customers and prospects in most businesses and organizations are strangers, and our ability to grow our enterprises is tied to our ability to connect with them in new ways and to understand their needs and dreams so we can deliver greater value. But doing this will require us to place greater value on building relationships with strangers.