Social Exploration

The latest research findings indicate that the majority of people have a difficult time connecting with others, especially individuals that they are not familiar with. Simple verbal instructions through traditional networking activities have had limited impact on these individual's behavior, nor do these activities encourage an individual to explore the resources which exist within the network itself or even within themselves. In addition, other researchers have found that due to the rapidly increasing interconnectedness of modern society, this skill set is becoming critical to success. Although traditional ways of teaching networking have provided some support, the need for a more systematic approach is needed, particularly in the area of specific goal setting and linking these goals to specific network resources.

So what are we to do?

One answer is Social Exploration, the next generation, researched based, internationally proven system which takes the nebulous concept of networking and systematizes it into a teachable, accountable, and repeatable process. The Social Exploration concept is a multi-phase system that has successfully been applied in both the for-profit and the non-profit sector. It has been used to capitalize on the potential that exists within an individual’s social network to improve on-the-job performance. In other words, teach individuals to tap into the resources which exist within their network to help accomplish the goals they set; regardless of whether they are personal or career related.

Before getting into the nuts and bolts of the system a few definitions are needed.

  • Social Networks: a set of people (or organizations or other social entities) connected by a series of inter-connected social relationships, such as friendship, co-working or information exchange.
  • Network Resources: the collection of skills and experiences of members in a network that have the potential to assist members of the network in achieving their respective goals.
  • Social Capital: network resources that have been identified and fully explored; that also have been accessed, and could be utilized.
  • Networking: the act of making contact with an individual to explore each other's network resources for the possible accomplishment of a specific goal.
  • Social Explorer: a person who recognize his full potential to contribute to social networks, has the ability to garner knowledge about the network resources around herself, can develop tactics to gain access to these resources, and is able to utilize those resources as social capital.
  • Social Exploration: both a philosophy and an applied training system designed to assist in the development of the individual (or organization) to maximize his/her potential as a social explorer and to develop lifelong mutually beneficial relationships with each contact in his/her network.

Social Exploration is a three phase process:

(1) SELF- Networking Skill Assessment - this assessment serves as the foundation to develop an action plan for networking skill improvement. It is based on extensive research which has identified seven crucial skills for successful networking. Another outcome of this assessment is the determination of the type of social explorer an individual currently is. This is viewed as a current snapshot of networking behavior rather than a reflection on the networking ability. During this phase of self-examination the new social explorer is taken on a very systematic exploration of his/her goals. These discovered and articulated goals are a key component of the next phase of social exploration.

(2) Network Auditing/Mapping - using similar examination techniques the social explorer is now lead on a journey which involves mapping out their social networks, but in the very specific context of the goals identified in the previous phase. That is, the identified goals are now compared and assigned to specific individuals who can assist in the achievement of these goals. The social explorer then begins to map out others who are in his/her network but are not assigned to goals. Research indicates the normal cause of this non-assignment to a particular goal is a lack of knowledge about the individual. An action plan (connection strategy) is then developed to get to know more about this person and vice versa. Finally the Social Explorer examines the remainder of the goals that were developed in the previous step but have not been assigned to a particular individual. The normal problem in these cases is a lack of clarity about the goal so a careful examination of the goal is conducted. Once clarity is assured then the social network of the individual is examined and possibly expanded to meet the need of this goal.

(3) Networking - in the Social Explorer’s model, a plan is developed for each goal with a connection strategy using a systematic approach through the “Flowork Manager” to ensure nothing is missed. Each step of what is an intuitive process is well defined and perhaps most importantly is transparent. Individuals using this system are accountable to themselves, a small group they might be assigned to, or their teacher for the results or lack of results they have in moving an opportunity towards goal attainment. This tool is viewed as the training wheels that will help a student transform themself into a fully functioning Social Explorer – one who can capitalize on their potential network resources and give back in a meaningful way to those in their network.

So what does this mean? First it means that soft-skill networking behavior modification training has been specifically developed for individuals, but even more importantly, the skills developed in this training do not stop at any one specific activity, rather this skill-set is something that can and will have a positive impact on every aspect of a persons life. Because as the research proves and our life experiences bear out, we cannot escape our networks, so the question is not are we in social networks, but rather how well do we all perform in those networks.

Social Exploration - The Next generation of Networking Article