Running a successful startup without a doubt requires thinking outside of the box. As time moves forward, technology changes, public opinion changes, and ideas change. As such, an entrepreneur constantly needs to keep an ear and an eye out for new ideas, and re-think old ones.
One idea in particular that needs reevaluation is the concept of networking. The realms of fundraising and entrepreneurship, particularly in the world of startups have long been incredibly connection-driven. In other words, offers for jobs and other opportunities end up being afforded to people based not so much on what their talents are, but to whom they are connected. In other words, the exploitative practice of leveraging a person’s professional and business has become de rigeur, and this phenomenon is really just an exponent of the human tendency toward approaching interpersonal relationships in an insecure manner. Because it has long been believed that familiarity breeds contempt, we have often been advised to draw a sharp, clear line between business and personal relationships. However, all this really does is create a false barrier that inhibits personal connections.
The truth of the matter, though, is that friends made in the workplace can be some of the best friends a person can hope to have because we spend about a third of our day in close quarters with these people, often in the process of solving challenging problems. Therefore, to place them off limits as friends is as needless as it is counter-intuitive. No interpersonal relationship of any kind – particularly in the business arena – should be created for the sole purpose of leverage. In his recent article, “Let’s End Networking Now, Please,” entrepreneur Allen Gannet poses the question, “If someone is not good enough to be friends with, then why do business with them?” Moreover, Gannet observes that, “Our connections with people, even in our work life, should be based on relationships of genuine humanity, not shallow tit-for-tat interactions.”
Indeed, if successful professional relationships are meant to be based on trust, then more opportunities to build trust and communication should be created. As such, constructing mental dividers that differentiate whether or not someone is a friend or simply a business associate would only inhibit the growth of meaningful relationships within the professional realm.