At a dinner party a few years ago, Salesforce CRM 2.16% Founder Marc Benioff and Dropbox co-founder Drew Houston got to talking. Their conversation led to a new idea, and that idea led to Salesforce’s Chatter, an enterprise social network, Benioff recalled during an interview I had with him two years ago (for an upcoming book about what causes senior leaders, especially CEOs, to ask the right questions – before someone else does it for them).
Their conversation led to a new idea, and that idea led to Salesforce’s Chatter, an enterprise social network. Chatter was not just a result of a chance encounter. At the age of 50, Benioff regularly invites 20- and 30-something year-old entrepreneurs to his house for dinner. It’s in this pursuit of perspectives different than his own that he is able to constantly bring new services and ideas to market. Benioff, who is known to buy smaller firms for people (not products), once told me, “I don’t have all the ideas. That isn’t my job. My job is to build a culture of innovation.”
When we think about networking, it’s usually to get a job, advance our career, sell our company or access resources. Networking for ideas is different. It’s about talking to people with dissimilar backgrounds or perspectives to spark new thinking or solve a problem.
Who should you talk to for great new ideas? Think of people outside your typical circle. Maybe it’s someone from another country, industry or socioeconomic status. Talk to men and women from different professions, various levels throughout their organizations, or with opposing political views. The point is to look for people who see the world differently because they have experienced the world differently.
Read the full post at Fortune.
Hal Gregersen is Executive Director of the MIT Leadership Center and a Senior Lecturer in Leadership and Innovation at the MIT Sloan School of Management.