The Immense Value of Networking and Lifelong Learning

By INSEAD Sweden Alumni Board Member, Digoshen Founder and Professional Board Member Liselotte Engstam

The importance of networking 

Networking is crucial to building your business and career, learning new insights, and having sense-making feedback buddies. You might have them in your family or from childhood, you might have them from junior school, from university, from an interest group, from an MBA, Executive, or Board program.

The network, however, is not static. Many have some base groups, some networks that others help facilitate, and some that present themselves as opportunities. Unfortunately, many people go to their networks first after they are in deep need themselves, which might prove much more challenging to benefit from.

INSEAD Professor in Organizational Behavior Noah Askin has studied networks and has some great tools and tips you can find in this article “Networking in the New Reality”, and a recent presentation by Prof Askin held in June 2022 at INSEAD.

Prof Askins key takeaways are that time, money, and relationships are the currencies that run our lives. For networking, we need to consider

  • Building a community is more than a network
  • Think long term and develop a habit
  • Be specific about yourself and your needs
  • Mentors are crucial
  • Be the connector

Helen Pitcher OBE, the President of The INSEAD Board Directors Network, has written an article targeting board members outlining “10 networking strategies to a board role“, which is highly relevant. The networking strategies include

  • Build your networking muscle – it takes time and effort, but it is worth it
  • Develop a thick skin – you might not get the thing you ask for directly
  • Be nice to everyone you meet – basic courtesy
  • Be giving – When you reach out to someone in your network, start with offering to support that person in something that would be valuable to them before jumping into the asks.
  • Grow your relationship database – get yourself into new networks
  • Communicate – share your insights, and help others learn
  • Keep it simple – is it easy to understand what three things you are known for?
  • Build rapport – engage and show empathy
  • Set goals – gives you focus
  • Access available resources – go via your current networks to expand. Don’t always expect something back.

How do you contribute to and benefit from your business networks? You will find that the best networkers are giving in nature and act as connectors. They are training their curiosity and seeing that serendipity will also come into play.

 

The INSEAD Alumni Network

In a combination of thirst for Lifelong Learning and Networking, the INSEAD Alumni Network has proven invaluable. The Alumni Network is a great network with top leaders and entrepreneurs worldwide, providing many opportunities to get and stay connected.

The network opportunities are available locally in person in different countries, including the Swedish INSEAD Alumni Network, with many opportunities. If you are INSEAD alumni – ensure to invite colleagues with a guest ticket. If you are not alumni, contact us to inquire about joining our events.

There are also network opportunities with local and international meetings with several INSEAD global clubs (such as INSEAD Directors Network, Energy Club, Tech Club, Women in Business Club Indevor etc). In addition, there are events arranged by INSEAD Academic Centers (as INSEAD Corporate Governance Center and INSEAD Family Business Center, INSEAD Private Equity Initiative), and there are also yearly regional Forums in Europe, America and Asia. In addition, INSEAD provides many webinars and digital dialogues from INSEAD and the INSEAD Lifelong Learninginitiative. The networking naturally expands also to many business collaborations across the world.

Experiences of INSEAD Alumni Network

As many business leaders, I am a member of several business networks, including friends from university, alumni networks from executive courses, and networks related to some of my focus areas as art and culture, startup investments, coaching, innovation, sustainability, and board work.

Let me share some of the connections and benefits I have gained and contributed to via INSEAD and the INSEAD Alumni Network.

Coming from an international career with Executive and CEO positions at European, American, and Indian technology and services companies, I was approached to join board positions and decided I needed to gain international board education. After evaluating the board programs at the top international universities and business schools, I settled on the INSEAD International Directors Program, based on its content with a focus on the international side, the human side, and the opportunity to join the INSEAD Directors Network, IDN, as well as becoming an INSEAD Alumni.

After I went through the INSEAD International Directors Program 2014-2015 and became a certified International Board Director IDP-C, I became a grateful INSEAD Alumni and member of the broader INSEAD Alumni Network as the Global Club IDN.

 

 

In 2015 I was elected to the IDN Board and worked for six years as their Chair of Communication. That led me to start, among other things, the IDN global webinars, which meant that during 2015-2021 I organized and ran more than 75 webinars with INSEAD Alumni and faculty members and learned so much about international board work and grew my network immensely. Some of the webinars are summarized via the INSEAD IDN Blog.

Another opportunity to contribute and network has come from becoming a mentor to other international board members via the excellent IDN Mentor Program, professionally led by Board Member and Coach Helen Wiseman.

Additional education and alumni forums related to INSEAD, as programs in Strategy, Digital Disruption, Sustainability, Board Dilemmas, and networking events with a focus on Purposeful Leadership, Technology for Good, allowed me to share and interact with many of the experienced INSEAD Alumni and faculty.

All this benefits many leaders and companies across the globe, including my board assignments on both public and private boards, and gives me many new colleagues and friends.

It also led me to collaborate on Academic Research with INSEAD, including

In addition, I have been invited as returning presenter to INSEAD Corporate Governance Centers Board Programs and the Nordic IN-Board Program, hosted by INSEAD Alumni Norway led by President Susanne Hannestad. Both allow me to continue to meet and network with many engaging leaders.

 

 

As Chair of Boards Impact Forum in Nordic, and Board member at the Climate Governance Initiative in collaboration with World Economic Forum, we have linked up with INSEAD.

We have arranged a partnership with INSEAD Corporate Governance Center led by Sonia Tatar as a knowledge partner, and we collaborate on surveys and run joint webinars. The next webinar on September 7 with the topic of “Rising to the ESG challenge, Routes towards effective governance ” together also with BCG, is open for all to join and includes INSEAD research and a fantastic panel.

On October 12, we will collaborate with INSEAD Wendel International Center for Family. We will run a webinar with them, including Professor Morten Bennedsen and with top European owner board members, two of them INSEAD alumni, on the topic of “Strategic integration of sustainability, accelerated by engaged and active owners” as part of the CGI Global Summit.

 

The INSEAD Alumni Network Sweden Board, then led by Carl Magnus Norden, and now led by Alfonso Paradinas, invited me to join them. I meet many new business colleagues and friends in different settings and help arrange events, webinars, and communications.

At the INSEAD Sweden Alumni Network board, we have organized several webinars, which is available in recordings and blog posts via the Blog

 

Many INSEAD alumni and faculty have truly impressive backgrounds and engagements, and we have been fortunate to interview some of them for the podcast Exploring Leaders which is part of the Think Tank Digoshen, that I founded 7 years ago.

Sharing their immense insights and providing an additional opportunity for Lifelong Learning, we welcome all to listen to the podcast episodes and read the blog posts that includes INSEAD Alumni and INSEAD Professors listed below;

  • How Coaching benefits Board Work with Helen Wiseman (INSEAD Alumni) > Podcast Episode and Blogpost.
  • Create and believe in the future – with INSEAD Professor Nathan Furr > Podcast Episode and
  • Popping the founder’s age myth of successful ventures with serial entrepreneur Carl Magnus Norden (INSEAD alumni) > Podcast Episode and Blogpost
  • Experienced board chair Helen Pitcher OBE, Inspiring boardroom excellence (INSEAD Alumni)  > Podcast Episode and Blogpost
  • Why all leaders should include design thinking in their toolbox with Fennemiek Gommer (INSEAD Alumni) and Anne Mieke Eggencamp > Podcast Episode and Blogpost.
  • Learn From Experienced Digital Non-Executive Board Director Denise Koopmans (INSEAD Alumni) >Podcast Episode and Blogpost.

We have also run webinars, including several INSEAD Alumni members, and created related blogposts, as for example

 

Conclusion

  • Networking is the social capital and knowledge capital, where you can add value and which will contribute to yourself and your business.
  • Networking takes time and effort and is a well-worth investment.
  • INSEAD Alumni Network is an excellent example of a valuable source of connections, inspiration, and friends.

For all INSEAD Alumni, we welcome you to engage and contribute to our outstanding network.

  • Share some of your insights in person or at a virtual event.
  • Share more about yourself and your business at our INSEAD Sweden Blog- find out how here.

For all business colleagues and alumni, we welcome you to check out and join our upcoming events and collaborate with us.

“Networking is like an investment. If you invest well in networking, it will grow in value over the years” – Liselotte Engstam

 

 

 

Learn more

About INSEAD

Follow

INSEAD Alumni Sweden Website and INSEAD Alumni Sweden at LinkedIn

INSEAD Directors Network at LinkedIn

INSEAD Alumni Association at LinkedIn

INSEAD Knowledge

For Master Programmes

For Executive Education

About Networking

Haven’t networked in a while? Here’s How to jump back in. by Dorie Clark

Learn to love networking with Gino et al

Get better at Networking: Our favourite Reads by Paige Cohen

10 networking strategies to a board role By Helen Pitcher OBE

 

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This blog post was originally shared at the blog INSEAD Alumni Sweden, at the blog of Digoshen www.digoshen.com,  and at the blog of the Digoshen founder www.liselotteengstam.com

Nils Bohlin Story

Get to know Nils Bohlin, one of our INSEAD Sweden Alumni members

Nils is an experienced international management consultant working as an executive coach and passionate about good listening and outdoor adventures.

 

* What has taken you to your current position? Any defining moments? 

Following a 40 year career in the Global Management Consulting Industry I am now engaged in professional coaching working with leaders of entrepreneurial companies supporting them through the never ending challenges of growing a small high potential company into a global force. What I learnt about the power of shared vision, team learning, dialogue, personal mastery and systems thinking during the 1990s when I worked with co-workers of Peter Senge has had a defining and propelling impact for me.

* What do you do in your professional life? 

Today I work through my own company; Venac AB (Venture Accelerator). I engage with leaders to support their efforts in building successful entrepreneurial companies.

* What do you think we need to develop for the future of work and in our leadership? 

The human capacity for compassion, collaboration, co-creation and team work will remain key. Courage, vision and the focus on execution is essential.

* Any particular pointers for books, podcasts or articles you think would be valuable for others to explore?

Most recently I have enjoyed reading the perspective creating book of Bill Gates; “How to avoid a climate disaster” and the reflective book of Jan Carlzon “Se Människan!”.

* When you get some spare time, what do you like to do? 

The outdoors; walking, hiking, cycling, skiing and spending time with my family and friends.

* What are you particularly good at, that others in the network can contact you about? 

I believe that a well-structured problem is half the solution. I am good at listening, organizing the mind and finding a way to frame complex problems; making them actionable in a flexible and pragmatic manner.

Connect with Nils Bohlin here

This post is part if INSEAD Sweden Alumni Membership stories. We welcome you to share yours!

Read previous stories shared, here are some about Jennifer Lipes and  Alfonso Paradinas 

Share your story – read more on how to here 

Jennifer Lipes Story

Get to know Jennifer Lipes, one of our INSEAD Sweden Alumni members

Jennifer is a business development and brand consultant in the food industry, passionate about cross-cultural leadership and inclusion strategies.

 

* What has taken you to your current position? Any defining moments? 

Earlier in my career, I applied to a global young development program at my engineering consulting firm and was the only colleague selected in a non-commercial facing role (in my case HR) which not only exposed me to a working with colleagues from all over the world, but also taught me how my diverse perspective was unique yet necessary. Additionally, it gave me a network that later led me to live 3,5 years in Antwerp, Belgium, which was my first exposure to working in Europe.

* What do you do in your professional life? 

I work for Sweden’s leading tofu producer in a global business development role focusing on internationalizing our brand but also expanding our products beyond Sweden. From attending trade fairs to engaging in conversations with potential partners, I work in an agile team with our vegan products in what is now an exciting time for the vegan and organic market.

* What do you think we need to develop for the future of work and in our leadership? 

Flexible and empathetic leadership – with the increase and popularity of remote working, leaders need to re-think how they engage and motivate individuals to contribute to their strategic goals, focusing more on how to align and partner with what’s important to people (as opposed to focusing on medium/short term profitability and relying on compensation purely as motivation). Leaders also need to cultivate compassionate leadership in a remote working setting; this includes changing communication styles to be an attentive and empathetic leader towards employees or audiences.

Aligning personal values to company values – I think people are recognizing the need to become more involved and accountable for the companies and industries we’re working for: e.g., understanding our company’s environmental impact; driving gender and racial equality in how employees are treated, compensated, etc.; making sure companies are working on projects that align with core values (see: facial recognition tech); utilizing the power of a company’s voice (e.g., standing up to political changes)

* Any particular pointers for books, podcasts or articles you think would be valuable for others to explore?

I love the podcast “How I built this” with Guy Raz as I find it fascinating to learn about the perseverance and journey that founders go through to start companies. It is encouraging hear how it’s not that founders are overly smart, it’s more so that they are passionate and quick learners, skills that I believe anyone could use to start something great. 

I also love the podcast “We can do hard things” with Glennon Doyle as it recognizes the challenges in daily life and the importance of communicating openly, finding support systems, and taking care of your mental and physical health.

* When you get some spare time, what do you like to do? 

You’ll typically find me cooking for a crowd, trying the latest craft beer at the local brewery, or doing something outdoors like running or skiing in my spare time. I also volunteer as a career mentor for two veteran organizations, consult for women in business advocacy groups, and serve as a learning coach for INSEAD’s Advanced Design Thinking programme.

* What are you particularly good at, that others in the network can contact you about? 

My expertise is fundamentally within people strategies. I’m particularly good at developing diversity & inclusion strategies for companies or utilizing active listening to make individuals feel included. I am passionate about cross-cultural leadership, including how to use cultural awareness to communicate messages in the intended ways. Overall, I have a diverse network and serve as a great connector to those looking to find contacts outside of their personal circles or communities.

Connect with Jennifer Lipes here

This post is part if INSEAD Sweden Alumni Membership stories. We welcome you to share yours!

Read some previous stories shared, here is one about Alfonso Paradinas

Share your story – read more on how to here 

Alfonso Paradinas story – international and ambitious leader

Get to know Alfonso Paradinas, one of our INSEAD Sweden Alumni member .

Alfonso is an international leader in construction industry passionate about ambitious leadership, sports and travelling

 

* What has taken you to your current position? Any defining moments? 

My position involves construction and teams management. I would not have reached my current role without the decision to pursue an Insead MBA and without having taken the risk to move to Africa to start a new company from scratch. Both defining moments have shaped my career and have allowed me to be where I am today.

* What do you do in your professional life? 

I am Sika Sweden’s Managing Director. I am leading a team of 105 employees that generates an annual turnover of over 80m EUR. Sika is a world wide leader in the development and production of systems and products for bonding, sealing, damping, reinforcing and protecting in the building sector and motor vehicle industry.

* What do you think we need to develop for the future of work and in our leadership? 

There are two trends that are and will certainly continue shaping the future of work;

  1. Digitalisation, that Covid pandemic has accelerated its development and implementation; companies have had to quickly adapt all their systems and their internal and external communication structure to cope with lockdowns and social distancing.
  2. Sustainability, crucial to change the negative spiral that our planet is facing. From CO2 emission reductions to a radical production and supply chain recycling approach, shareholders and customers are demanding companies to transform the way they interact with nature.

As for leadership, there are three elements that employees are expecting from their top managers;

  1. Flexibility; with such a global and digital world, the younger generation will simply not accept the old way of the daily commute to the office. They are demanding much more flexibility from their employers to work from “anywhere”
  2. Empowerment; old school micromanagement does not work anymore. Younger generations expect to be able to take the lead and to be much more involved in decision making processes
  3. Diversity; much more mixed management both in terms of gender and race is a must for companies to compete and to grow. Not only due to “political reasons”, but diversity allows teams to think much more “outside the box” and to come up with new ideas

* Any particular pointers for books, podcasts or articles you think would be valuable for others to explore?

“To live is to take the risk of deciding who do you want to be” this quote by Ortega y Gasset has been my life motto for many years. I strongly recommend “The Revolt of the Masses” as it is a great critical essay about how human kind behaves around other peers and it fits very well with the world we live in.

I am also extremely passionate about the conquer of Everest history. One of my big life heroes is George Mallory, an English explorer that back in the 1920’s firstly attempted to reach the summit. “Paths of Glory” by Jeffrey Archer tells his story in a compelling way and very much worth reading about Mallory’s determination, life passion and love for his wife and his mountain.

* When you get some spare time, what do you like to do? 

In my spare time, I enjoy playing and practicing all kind of sports; skiing, tennis, paddle, football, swimming, running…it is the way I channel stress and also an great excuse to meet people and to network. My other passion is traveling and learning about new cultures. Given than Sweden is the 10thcountry I live in the last 16th years, living abroad has allowed me to grow both professionally and personally

* What are you particularly good at, that others in the network can contact you about? 

Since a very young age, I have been exposed to different cultures and I have lived in many countries. Thanks to this, I am able to adapt and to lead multi-cultural teams. Since I have quite an outgoing personality, I am a good communicator. I am also able to solve problems under tight deadlines and stressful situations. People can also contact me if they want to learn to play paddle or tennis!

Connect with Alfonso Paradinas here

This post is part if INSEAD Sweden Alumni Membership stories. We welcome you to share yours!  Share your story – read more on how to here