Monday, November 19, 2007

Knowledge-sharing is the new way to network

The adage "It's not what you know, it's who you know" is not 100% accurate, especially not in today's knowledge economy where a professional's value lies chiefly in his or her knowledge.

Linkedin, the popular networking site for professionals and managers, has in fact enabled people to share and show their knowledge through the Linkedin Answers service, which is free of charge.

Therefore, since a professional's knowledge will be increasingly visible to the whole wide world (to the extent that he is willing and able to share it), then what a person knows will likely become as important as -- if not more important than -- who he knows.

Indeed, when recruiting new talents, employers don't care so much -- unless it's a sales job -- about a person's number of connections as much as what the candidate knows and what professional capabilities flow from that knowledge.

In short, a connection can only open doors for you; you still have to tap dance, so to speak, in order to prove to the potential employer or client that you can do the job.

The critical importance of one's knowledge and professional capability thus changes the networking game from one of "making connections" to one of "sharing knowledge."

To be more precise, the networking game is no longer about the quantity of one's connections, but the quality of one's knowledge.

It's also about one's willingness and ability to share one's knowledge. As the saying goes, "knowledge shared is power multiplied." Sharing knowledge will empower everyone while encouraging others to share their knowledge in return. This principle of reciprocity never fails because it is part of human nature: the more we receive from others, the more we feel compelled -- if only for moral reasons -- to give back.

This is why participating on Linkedin Answers is so crucial. It's a virtuous cycle where the more one gives, the more one receives.

This sharing and learning can become quite addictive too! But it is a healthy and positive sort of addiction where participants are psychologically and socially motivated to share their valuable knowledge while gaining from the vast pool of wisdom consisting of the collective experience of thousands of other Linkedin users.

Linkedin even offers rewards for people who provide "best answers" (as determined by the person asking the question). Such knowledgeable people are recognized as "experts," although the term is just a recognition of the value and usefulness of their answers and does not really make them true experts in the traditional sense of the word.

The key idea here is that networking will focus more and more on knowledge and knowledge-sharing, not the (often mindless) accumulation of business cards in one's Rolodex or the multiplication of connections on Linkedin.

The challenge for professionals then will be to identify what it is that they know best, and to share their knowledge as fast as possible, with as many people as possible, in order to position themselves as knowledgeable experts in their field who can be relied upon to provide guidance, counsel and solutions.