When worlds collide
Is it just my imagination or has social and professional networking exploded this year? I think it hit home for me when my mother (74 – please don’t tell her I told you) “friended” my teenage children on Facebook. Or maybe when I was friended by a pack of high school friends within a matter of hours – people I hadn’t spoken to in decades.
Pick your channel – Linked In, Facebook, Twitter, blogs – I believe the interconnectedness of these media, their fun quotient, and the human yearning for reaching out during tough times have moved us to a tipping point in the adoption of Web 2.0. More than just a way to stay in touch with friends and relatives or satisfying the curiosity to see what ever happened to so-and-so, web enabled networking is profoundly changing the way we relate to one another.
In simpler times, say 4 years ago, it was easier to carve out sections of my life. I had my professional network and my personal friends. The latter knew the real me while the former knew the “control” version. And that was how it was supposed to be –never mix business with pleasure.
Fast-forward to now, the lines have completely blurred. I am being Linked In by friends and friended by colleagues. And truly, it’s hard to reject people you know without feeling as though you are insulting them (except sales people). Now I have a complicated and growing amalgamation of family-friends-colleagues (FFC).
So I accept this blurring of the lines in the belief that over time it will all make sense. As it turns out, we may have something to learn from the Chinese on this topic. A recently published working paper from HBS professor Roy Y. J. Chuaspeaks to the Chinese tradition of deliberately blending professional and personal contacts. It’s how they do business and if we are going to build productive business relationships with the Chinese, it’s important to understand.
I’ve heard that doing business in China can be incredibly frustrating and time-consuming for foreigners. According to Professor Chua’s research, that’s because it takes much longer to build trusting business relationships in China than in the United States. That’s where web enabled networking tools come in handy. American managers will want to know as many people in the Chinese counterpart’s network as possible. That would have been a major hurdle before but now it can be as simple as shouting out to your friend-colleagues to see who knows someone in Shanghai or Mumbai or Mexico City. Granted, a contact won’t cement a trusting relationship, but it’s a great starting point.
So I’ll post this blog, tweet about it and write it on my wall, message it to my network and further blur the lines between the real me and the control version. Then I’ll get back to the exhausting work of keeping up with the lives of my FFC.
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