20 September 2022 |
3 Steps to Diversify Your Network
By Nicole Casperson
IQ doesn’t explain the difference between top performers and average ones.
Highly-productive leaders, operators, and investors develop relationships with other experts – and build networks that are significantly more diverse than their average-performing colleagues.
Carnegie Mellon researchers Robert Kelley and Janet Caplan, who analyzed the characteristics of exceptional engineers at Bell Labs, made this discovery in 1985.
It’s 2022, and most leaders still struggle with diversifying their networks.
There’s truth in the saying, “Your network is your net worth.”
If you look around your team or office and everyone is similar, you will likely get very homogenous results and ideas.
This may result in a rapid growth early but won’t translate into true long-term success.
In fintech, this is crucial as we aim to diversify the user bases of financial services to be more representative of the population.
As a leader in fintech, we can think about expanding our networks using empathetic techniques.
For example, Author Frans Johansson explores the idea of “intersectional thinking” in his book The Medici Effect, proposing that the best ideas emerge from the collision of different industry insights.
*Pretends to be shocked*
Despite the clear benefits, most people tend to connect with others whose perspectives, backgrounds, and cultural norms are similar to their own.
If you’re reading this and have never had the comfort of just fitting in, then you’re more familiar with being surrounded by others who aren’t like you.
This is a massive advantage.
Rethinking what it means to build a network and community around you is ongoing work and intention.
Throughout my career – in finance, tech, and media – I’ve built a network that spans industries.
It’s been central to my fintech creator and community builder work.
As a founder, operator, or investor, you must also put in the work.
Here are 3 steps to creating a successful long-term network:
1. Get uncomfortable.
Think about meeting someone new and asking about things you don’t have in common. It increases your ability to stop assuming your lived experiences are the same as others (or you ought to relate your experiences to someone’s different life experiences).
We can pause and control that mindset. It’s more complex than it seems.
Instead of focusing on comprehension and response, approach conversations with those different from you with compassion.
It would help if you didn’t have to understand someone’s experience or have itrelate to yours to see it as valid.
Pro Tip: Pause the urge to respond with your input to everything you see or hear (according to wisdom by Sonya Dreizler).
Then, make space in your day to develop a skill that doesn’t fit your current career path.
Remember, it was the calligraphy class Steve Jobs sat in during college that later inspired Apple’s typography.
Ask 3 friends each month for introductions to people in their extended networks, and remember that you can always learn something from someone new regardless of their status or working title.
2. Seek out collaborations.
Amy Nauiokas shared in the Harvard Business Review that at venture capital firm Anthemis they introduced “collaboration” groups — people from different roles, business units, and backgrounds (gender, race, ethnicity, age, thinking style) who come together to solve challenging problems.
The group doesn’t come together to agree. Instead, they are a safe space for healthy debates and divergent thinking.
(Learn more about Amy Nauiokas and Anthemis here).
They find ways to reframe problems and come up with multiple solutions as a group.
Create your group by reaching out to people who think differently than you and whose perspectives have been shaped by distinct experiences.
Often these groups are created outside of your office or traditional career network.
One example from me is a network in NYC called BLDRS, a collaborative community of entrepreneurs, investors, and innovators dedicated to helping each other succeed.
Let’s say you take all these steps but still sit in a room where voices from underrepresented groups are missing.
It’s your job to advocate.
If people of color and women are not in the meetings, be the voice in the room that advocates for their needs.
Even better, advocate for more seats at the decision-making table so women, people of color, and especially women of color can speak for themselves.
3. Intent vs. Impact.
Last week, we talked about the difference between good intent versus impact.
Mindfulness is key to moving from good intent to impact and influence.
And fintech leaders can extend mindfulness to the way you approach networking.
It’s necessary because spending all day in meetings, brainstorming, or even our emails and Twitter exchanges can be both inspiring and draining.
This makes turning our inspiration into action a daunting task.
When our mind is quieter and hyper-aware of what is happening at the moment, we’re in a better position to recognize when we’re slipping into our comfort zone so that we can course-correct while building self-confidence and awareness.
Trying to remember our way back into past realities, past rooms, and past beliefs is a first step toward measuring the depth of change, says Gloria Steinem.
Sharing those measures in a room filled with people of diverse experiences, ages, and backgrounds – we can begin to see patterns of similarity emerge from changes in our lives and even in the words we use.
New words, thoughts, and experiences are one organic measure of change.
So, let’s go out of our way to get uncomfortable.
Let’s find the people who:
- Challenge our assumptions
- Call out our biases
- Surface new ideas
It’s on our industry to shift the culture of inclusivity and innovation by opening our minds to compassion versus comprehension.
We need to believe people’s stories and experiences, especially women who are authentic and open enough to share their vulnerabilities like the Vox article on Launch House.
Now, more than ever, we need to center women and diverse stories and come together as a community to support one another.
Let’s start with tomorrow night at Fintech Is Femme, and keep growing.