Networking 101: The Rise Of Collective Intellect

December 1, 2014

The other day I was tasked with a work problem I’ve never encountered before. I had some ideas on how I might tackle it, but they were theoretical at best.  My client was counting on me to find the appropriate solution and execute. The pressure was on.

I didn’t panic. While this particular challenge was outside my personal expertise, I knew several people in my network who’ve worked in this particular field. Within a day, I had three potential solutions based on proven firsthand experience that allowed me to deliver the ideal solution. That experience may not have been my own, but it didn’t matter - I had access to it.

Welcome to the collective intellect.

I was introduced to the term "collective intellect" in 1998. I was a technical recruiter for an agency that incubated a sysadmin company called Collective Technology. The theory was that if they hired an exceptional pool of consultants, clients who engaged the firm would have access to that vast collective knowledge. In this networked world, that theory can now be applied at the individual level.

When companies hire you, they don’t just gain access to your knowledge, they gain access to the collective intellect and experience your network can bear.

As we continue to see a shift towards a “share economy”, shared knowledge becomes as valuable commodity as cars and rooms. Companies are getting leaner, and moving faster. They need talent that can provide value in a variety of ways. If you’re solely focused on developing your own skill set, but not your network, your value margins may be decreasing. Specialist consultants of niche laborers may be an exception here, but I feel this applies to the majority of workers.

Actively cultivating a diverse network is the single most important thing you can do for your career.

Your network is more than a knowledge bank. It can be your door to your new employer. Most companies receive approximately 250 applications per hire. The term “black hole” is there for a reason. When you have a connection into an organization, it will always increase your odds. You still need to be qualified of course, but that direct lead will ensure your application gets a look.

You have to give, to get.

There is a heavy dose of karma in effective networking. Give, to get. You have knowledge and experience that may be valuable to someone else. Be valuable. Being valuable is a step towards being influential. When you become influential, you have more opportunities to give and expand your network – ultimately expanding your own collective intellect.

Where to start.

Not everyone can afford to attend conferences. That’s okay. Now more than ever in this connected world there are many online ways to connect, contribute, and build your network. LinkedIn Groups, Twitter Chats, Quora, Meetups, Reddit are all valuable networking and knowledge sharing platforms.

You gain from your network what you put into it. It takes intentional curation and care, but it’s the single biggest thing you can do for your career.

Want to connect? You can find me at @ThisIsLars, LinkedIn,,

* image by CPABC

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