Most networking gurus will tell you that the activity is essential to widen your horizons, expose yourself to fresh ideas and generally be a better and more productive professional. It’s a myth that is generally bought into by most of us. After all, why else would so many of us be afraid of networking if not for the prospect of heading forth into a room of people unlike us in all manner of ways.
New research exposes this notion however, suggesting instead that far from reaching out to people unlike us, at networking events we spend the majority of our time talking to people exactly like ourselves.
The study, conducted by researchers at Columbia University, invited executives to a networking event. Their name badges were fitted with tracking technology so the research team could analyse exactly what they did and with whom.
Despite most of the managers present stating they were attending the event to expand their social network and meet lots of new people, the researchers revealed that the managers interacted with people just like them. So those from financial circles talked mostly with other financiers, marketers with marketers, HR managers with other HR managers, and so on. Very little conversation was had across disciplines, very little new insight was had, very few new perspectives seen. In the main people merely reinforced their pre-existing points of view.
Which is all kinda sad. Research has shown the beneficial effects of having a varied social network, including innovation scores 3 times higher than the norm. Despite these clear benefits however, it would seem when we attend networking events our instinct kicks in and we seek out what is familiar rather than what is new.
Learn more about achieving goals with networking with our article on how to work a room