Building Your Innovator Network: How Executives Can Connect and Thrive
By Fast Company Executive Board
Visionary leadership requires innovation, which in turn requires fresh ideas and interactions. Do you have a reliable source of inspiration?
If you’ve ever felt like your vision is fading, or that you’re so buried in the day-to-day that you have lost your spark, it’s time to create your own executive support organization. Connecting with equally accomplished peers can:
- Refill your enthusiasm
- Get ideas flowing again
- Offer solutions to problems
- Lend perspective
- Defeat feelings of isolation and stagnation
You’ll want to cultivate a variety of connections: with other CEOs and executives; with innovators who aren’t executives; with your team; with mentors; with people in similar industries; with people in entirely different industries who have a reputation for innovation; and so on.
But where can you find the people who will most positively impact you? Here are four places to start:
Connecting with CEOs and other executives is a logical place to start.
One of the best places to find innovative leaders and make CEO connections is a successful executive community. Joining an existing community is a shortcut to vetted connections; after all, membership criteria for the best executive networks is usually clear, so you know what caliber of people you’ll meet. You just have to choose a group that is right for you.
Participating in executive groups allows you to access the hard-won expertise of your peers and to share your own experiences. You can build lasting, substantive relationships with accomplished leaders with track records similar to yours.
Innovative Networking Events
Innovative networking events like conferences and meetups offer face-to-face interactions with other visionary leaders. The executive groups you’ve joined may host their own or coordinate gatherings at larger industry events.
More gatherings are virtual since the advent of COVID, so the rules of engagement are slightly different, but it’s still possible to make meaningful connections and soak in strong ideas and trends.
Don’t dismiss the idea of events if you’re an introvert. You can find inspiration and value in touchpoints with other people — especially brilliant, inspiring people whose expertise complements your own. Simply choose a setting that works for you. Introverts often feel more themselves in one-on-one meets, small gatherings, or asynchronous chats. Extroverts may feel in top form surfing a room.
Whatever event you choose, whether virtual or in-person, one-on-one chat or huge gathering, carry a notebook or app to record ideas, contact info, and anything else that sweeps your mind. You can review it later and turn these sparks of ideas into actionable goals.
Innovative Social Networks
The great social innovation of our time, social media, makes everyone public and reachable to some extent. An “ordinary” human can reach out on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, or Instagram and be seen and heard by an enterprise corporation. And a successful business person can initiate contact with other leaders, via these networks or industry forums, with the click of a button.
There has been some drawing back in response to privacy concerns, but social networks still boast a strong showing from business leaders and other innovators. Even if the person you’d like to reach has a team screening their DMs, a brief message that is intriguing and relevant can definitely make it past gatekeepers. Creating a relationship with someone you’d like to know or work with is much, much easier than in pre-social-media days. Say something worth responding to, and you may well get a response.
The best visionary leaders inspire innovation throughout their organizations. And the best organizations inspire their leaders.
Chances are, if you spend some time getting to know your team, you’ll find them to be a fountain of inventive ideas and astute input that you can use. After all, they, too, spend their days focused on the work your company does.
If you are part of (or the head of) a very large enterprise, it might be more efficient to request input from your team via an anonymous survey. Anonymity allows people to say what’s really on their minds, and gives you a window into the real feelings of people across your organization.
To find the people whose input and presence can revitalize and set you back on the path of vision and innovation, look in executive groups, at networking events, on social networks, and within your team. Join or create the conversations you need to rekindle that spark that drives your vision and amplifies your leadership impact.
If you’re looking for a place to start, check out Fast Company Executive Board. Innovation is at the heart of everything Fast Company magazine stands for. That’s why we created this invitation-only professional network of company founders, executives, and leaders defining the future of business.
Fast Company Executive board offers not only a vetted network of visionary, inspirational leaders, but publishing opportunities with fastcompany.com, where you can spread your great ideas to a wider audience. Visit the Fast Company Executive Board membership page or contact us directly to learn more about becoming a member.