I hadn’t heard of this before but BBC Radio 4 the other day had a fascinating interview with Julia Hobsbawm, who last December was appointed the first ‘Professor of Networking’, certainly in the UK and possibly the world. This is at Cass Business School, which already has an active programme of research into KM.
Julia’s approach to networking is one I have expounded over the years. That is, it is about being natural, interested in other people and actually getting to meet people face-to-face. Even today in my voluntary work in retirement which is to help managers who have lost their job get back into the workplace, there is sometimes a pre-conception that networking for a job is all about LinkedIn. LinkedIn is a great tool – to help you make connections. But real networking is where you have interesting conversations and exchange information and knowledge, perhaps online via Skype if you are separated by geography, but ideally face-to-face.
Julia’s website talks about her business as a ‘concierge knowledge club’ for professionals needing to keep up with knowledge and networks in these overloaded times. She asserts that business networking is an important skill in today’s knowledge economy, and one that is now being taken more seriously.
She actually uses the phrase ‘knowledge networking’, the title of my 1999 book. Even before that, my research into successful knowledge managers highlighted the importance of their ability to communicate and network at all levels in the business, and especially laterally across departments and between organisations.
In one sense, there is not a lot new in this topic, but it is great to see a renewed interest and higher profile for this important topic.
Now Julia may be the first professor of networking. In 1997 Paul Quintas became the first professor of knowledge management (at the Open University). So how long before we get the world’s first ‘professor of knowledge networking’. Perhaps there is already one (or several?), and I don’t know about it, because I have not kept my knowledge networking skills up to date!