How to Foster and Harness Your Organisation’s Connectors

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From the Anecdote: Connecting People blog, by Shawn Callahan

“I wrote this article with Stewart Forsyth from FX Consultants. Stewart and I have done a few projects together in New Zealand and it is always a pleasure working with him.

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While passers-by see the granite and glass of high-rise buildings, well-connected people think of the organisations within as collections of interesting people they want to meet. Mention a business and these “connectors” will spill out the names of key informants and decision-makers. Connectors know lots of people.

One of us worked once with a business developer who, no matter what south-east Asian city he was in, always had names and contact details of locals in his PDA. According to legend, he was once arrested and thrown into a cell for not having the appropriate visa, but he was out within hours – he wangled a call to a mate who had the right connections. Connectors have the happy knack of getting things done, often making it look so easy in the process.

Connectors such as these are the human circuit-makers through which ideas, opportunities and resources flow. They ensure that the products proposed by R&D teams can be made economically and will sell. They help their organisation to spot competitor activity and environmental shifts that present threats and opportunities to be managed. They pick up even the weak signals. In our view, the informal connections made by your people are more important than the formal channels in getting the job done. The benefits to your business are increased responsiveness and adaptability.

Our emphasis is not only on how these people work. We want to help you mobilise their capabilities, and so your organisation’s capability. Specifically, how do you identify and develop people with connector potential?”

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Dawn Of The Idea Czar

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From BusinessWeek Online

“Billy Edwards’ colleagues at Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (AMD ) have called him their utility infielder. AMD’s human resources chief Kevin Lyman calls him the chipmaker’s agent provocateur. Officially, though, Edwards is called AMD’s chief innovation officer, a newly created role for this senior vice-president.

Although Edwards, 50, has a PhD in materials science engineering and has worked around semiconductors for much of his career, he has also headed up strategy at the Sunnyvale (Calif.) company, run a startup, and worked as a consultant for The Boston Consulting Group. So when AMD formalized a role that would lead its innovation effort last September (or, as Lyman describes it, “put an ‘X’ on the back of someone to consciously drive it”), Edwards’ diverse experience, gregarious personality, and penchant for disrupting traditional ways of thinking fit the bill. “A chief innovation officer needs to be this blend of marketer, technologist, strategist, and business person,” says Lyman.”

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