Networking for Ideas
When Gary Jones, Marcia Kinter and Doreen Monteleone sat down for a dinner to plan a health & safety conference, little did they realized this was beginning of the most comprehensive sustainability movement in the print industry. The three worked for different industry associations and the conference was an activity the associations jointly sponsored. Before planning the next conference, they discussed some of the current challenges faced by their association members. Through their informal discussion, it was clear sustainability was critical to the future success of the printing industry. From this discussion and notes on a cocktail napkin the concept for the Sustainable Green Printing Partnership was conceived. 11 years later in 2019,SGP is the leading non-profit certification organization for the printing industry and its suppliers.
Three people and one idea. What started as notes on a napkin during dinner changed the sustainability landscape for the printing industry. Fundamental to networking is the development and exchange of ideas.
Approaching networking as an idea generator makes networks a critical part of innovation and success. Networking can lead to new ways to address challenges in marketing communications. Approaching personal networks with a focus on ideas provides benefits for all. Consistently articles and presentation about successful networking focus on open sharing and less on career topics. In 2015, Doris Casares addressed the need for outward focus of networking in Communication Director magazine:
“… add a bit more value by using 20% to speak about your brand and leave 80% to bring added value to your users. The logical consequence of this is that we will end up creating a long-term, real and loyal community around us.” 
As marketing communication professionals is easy to demonstrate successful networking as idea sharing and generating. Andreea Hirica, an international marketing strategist located in Brussels, presented new ideas about virtual economies at the November 2019 Contagious Live Event London. “I feel the most productive relationships come from the networking for ideas vs sales-oriented goals,” said Hirica. “Sharing the opportunities for marketing and brands to interact in the new virtual economies added many C-suite executives to my network. We are now discussing how to address the new virtual realities created by platforms like EVE Online and DecentraLand. The conversations are dynamic and helpful for my network to develop their own approaches to the new digital reality.”
With an outward focus, idea generation in networking is easy. For entrepreneurs their success in creating and sustaining new innovations and businesses concepts, networking can be a key. Their ideas and opportunities are strongly affected by their social networks who motivated them.
Communicators can leverage their networks in varied ways discussing ideas and concepts with people in other industries and situations. I recently conducted a networking workshop at TE Connectivity for millennials. This was a great place to share ideas and the workshop provide a reality check for communication and engagement programs I manage. From our workshop, I have new ideas on mixing digital content with media to create more impact. At the same time, I challenged the participants to start early creating a mutually supportive network focusing on best practice sharing and ideas. “As I am just starting my career, sharing ideas is a great way I can contribute to my network with my unique perspective as a student and consumer,” said Natalie Brauneis, working student at TE Connectivity Germany GmbH. “Brainstorming and generating ideas provides opportunities for me to interact with all levels of people including top management in a collaborative open environment.”
Another idea generation source is from expert networks. By bringing together experts in a social network and facilitating a target discussion the results can be better than researching the problem and reviewing information. Having a short presentation with senior leaders is a good catalyst for networking. By sharing a concise, actionable idea such as how to respond to a difficult question can create a networking platform for ideas and best practices.
Networking is about sharing ideas. With this realization, social networks become a critical part of innovation and professional development as it leads to new engaging ways to address challenges and helps develop marketing campaigns and communications in innovative ways. The best value in social networking is the exchange and development of ideas.
By Jonathan Graham
Jonathan Graham is senior manager of global communications for TE Connectivity’s Industrial business in Darmstadt, Germany and serves on the Executive Committee of the Sustainability Green Printing Partnership. In his role at TE, the global leader in sensor and connectivity solutions, he manages external and internal communications. For SGP, the leading sustainability certification for the printing industry, he leads the marketing activities and chairs the SGP Foundation. Jonathan has a master’s in journalism from the University of Mississippi in the United States. Linkedin Twitter
 Aldrich, Howard and Zimmer, Catherine. “Entrepreneurship through social networks.” California Management Review (1986) 33:1, 3.
 Hagel, John. “Net Gain: Expanding Markets through Virtual Communities.” Journal of Interactive Marketing (1999): 15:1, 37.