How can you tell if a project is going to be successful? Look at the people involved—and their networks.
Larry Miller, CEO of Activate Networks, once gave us a telling case study. His consultancy was hired by an engineering company to map metrics of success—things like patents and products brought to market—onto the teams of six or seven within the innovation-centric company.
More than quality of work, he says, the relationships that a team had was critical: The best teams had at least one person well connected across the company.
Innovation, like the flu, is contagious. With broad social bonds, ideas can go out into an organization, gather feedback and support, and come back. And for people, broader bonds expose you to a breadth of ideas—a key to combinatorial creativity. A lot of the work you can do—and the exposure it gets—is due to the people you know.
You'd be behooved, then, to be mindful of the bonds you make in the office—and no, it doesn't have to be sleazily careerist. It's about knowing the kinds of people you connect with. As Avery Augustine at the Daily Muse notes, there a few archetypes of folks to be taking lunches or walks with.
Start with the Socialite. "If you're not actively filling the role of Happy Hour Coordinator Extraordinaire," Augustine writes, "you should befriend whoever is—and quick." This is the friendly neighborhood super-connector, the person who will intro you to all the people you need to know.
Another expert you need is the IT Guru: You don't want to be stuck hapless while waiting for the IT ticket to be resolved, Augustine observes, so you better have a tech-knowledgable colleague that you can lean on in times of buggy need.
But office friendships aren't just take-take-take; that would be ungracious. Be on the lookout for the Helpless Newbie: If someone is more doe-eyed than you, they could probably use a kind word—which could launch a career.
Like data science pioneer DJ Patil once said, you should seek out those who will take a risk on you—and the people who you can take a risk on, too.
[Image: Flickr user Stefano Mortellaro]