Social Capital…How Important Is It?

Think about a recent project, assignment or initiative you worked on over the past month. At some point you probably couldn’t find the information or resource you were looking for in the company knowledge database or on the internet so you picked up the phone, sent an email or got up and physically walked over to ask another colleague for some help.

I’m willing to bet, you realized at that point, you could have saved a lot of time, money and effort if you had just reached out to your network in the first place.

According to social scientist, Karen Stephenson, organizations are starting to realize how vital internal networks are in the transfer of tacit knowledge. Tacit knowledge is the information and context we have on people, resources and experiences.

You won’t find tacit knowledge in your company database on how to best “sell” your idea to your boss or how to best work with sales and marketing to make sure they don’t sell something that your technical team can’t deliver. Tacit knowledge is shared people to people through a network based on personal relationships and trust. Often people are not aware of the important knowledge or information they possess and how it could be valuable to someone else.

In today’s business climate, the companies that are providing opportunities to build social capital between employees are the ones finding success.

I recently spoke to Standard & Poor’s which has an active internal women’s network initiative which brings women together from all of the different divisions of S & P. The women are encouraged to meet in person and virtually to share information and resources. In the group that I spoke to, there were five different divisions of S & P represented and most of the women had never met each other before. These internal networking opportunities allow for free exchange of tacit knowledge, career advice and best practices within all the divisions which keeps S & P at the top of their game.

There are many types of networks that you probably already tap into but haven’t realized how valuable they can be to your personal and professional growth. Think about the people you know and see if you can list a few names for each of these important knowledge networks we all should have;

  • The “Work” Network. Who do you talk to on a daily basis as part of your work routine?
  • The Social Network. Who do you check in with both in and out of work to find out what’s going on?
  • The Innovative Network. Who do you like to connect with to share new ideas and brainstorm possibilities?
  • The Expert Network. Who do you turn to for expert advice?
  • The Career Advice Network. Who do you talk to for career or strategic direction?

As you think about these important networks you have, ask yourself what you could be doing to grow your social capital by looking for ways to be a resource for these networks. Ask people, “How could I be a resource for you?”

Who do you talk to for career or strategic direction? Who do you turn to for expert advice? Who do you like to connect with to share new ideas and brainstorm possibilities? Who do you check in with both in and out of work to find out what’s going on? Who do you talk to on a daily basis as part of your work routine?Remember you have knowledge that could be vital to someone in those networks, don’t take it for granted.