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
- Innovation, Corporate Renewal, and boards with INSEAD Professor Ludo Van Der Heyden, and Professor Mats Magnusson, among others, resulting in the paper Innovation also Disrupt Boards and a forthcoming book on the topic
- Chair Practices with INSEAD Professor Stanislav Shekshnia, Scandinavian Executive Institue CEO Steen Buchreitz Jensen, among others, resulting in the book Leading a Board; Chair Practices across Europe and the Paper What the world can learn from Nordic Boards
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.
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
- Leading Transformation in an Age of Disruption with Peter Zemsky, INSEAD Deputy Dean and Professor of Strategy, and Börje Ekholm, President, and CEO of Ericsson, INSEAD Alumni
- Break the Bias: Experiences of increasing Inclusiveness for a more competitive business with NED Anne Årneby and Exec Search Director Jakob Stengel
- Lifelong Learning as a driver for a Sustainable Future with Ann-Ev Enzmann, INSEAD Director Lifelong Learning, and Britta Börjseeon, VP Learning Expertise at Volvo
- Value beyond the Deal with Mikael Ahlström, Founder Procuritas, and Sofia Nordenskjöld, Partner PwC M&A Integration and Carve-out
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
- Aline Eibl on Boards governance of Startups and ESG
- Kees van der Vleuten on Mergers & Acquisitions and Post merger Integrations
- Mary Francia and Reflections on Board Recruitment in an International context
- Ludo van Der Heyden et al on Accelerating Boards Climate and Sustainability Transition
- 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
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