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How are your relationships going?
Do you consider building relationships an investment or a fruitless deed?
We’re living in a dynamic new economy where we need to understand how relationships can yield a competitive advantage for success in the connection economy.
And history dictates that those who win the economic game do so by having a competitive advantage. Dean van Leeuwen wrote a commanding piece on “Building Innovative Companies using the Powerful Disruptive Force of the Connected Generation.” In that article, van Leeuwen summarized how competitive advantage played a role in those who led the charge. “By tracing what constituted competitive advantage through a succession of economic eras, we’re able to see the evolution of what remains central to business success.”
The article provided an interesting timeline of how the concept of an economic “competitive advantage” emerged over the past few centuries.
See the chart below for an example of the evolution of competitive advantage.
From the hunting and gathering era – those tribes who gained a competitive advantage did so by “finding and securing the best shelter and optimum places to hunt and gather food.”
After this pre-historic era, the Agrarian society emerged. And according to van Leeuwen, those who were successful had the ability to maximize more than others by owning the best lands. Not to digress from this topic, but the vice of colonialism and land exploitation also played a role. Those who had the ability to forcefully take lands from the weaker tribes gained a competitive advantage.
The Industrial Revolution followed the Agrarian society and van Leeuwen believed that those with assets and who were focused continued to build their competitive advantage. So when two of the most radical technologies – the steam engine and the printing press were invented, it enabled those with existing assets and focus to capitalize even more through speed and efficiency.
The two latter inventions led to a multitude of innovations that would ultimately lead to the information age. Still, the information age provided a competitive advantage to those who could access the information, which we referred to as the knowledge era.
“In the information economy, competitive advantage is found in the ability to extract relevant information and use that information to create a further strategic advantage,” stated van Leeuwen.
One of the barriers you can create is an unwillingness to evolve and learn what you need to build a competitive advantage.
As a result, you might be asking, what exactly does this have to do with me, or the Caribbean diaspora?
The need to master how the connection economy works.
The connection economy allows you to build relationships, which in turns provides you an opportunity to find and connect with people who share your mission, your values and your passion. The connection economy has everything to do with creating trust and building relationships – so your character will determine the quality of your relationships.
In other words, if the only thing you’re interested in is a persistence to further your own agenda, the chance for long-term success will be limited.
“The source of competitive advantage today and in the near future will be defined by how well businesses connect, collaborate and communicate. In essence, competitive advantage now stems from our ability to forge strong relationships and connections with the people important to our community, business and tribe.” Declared van Leeuwen.
The driving forces …
And the driving forces that are enabling us to forge these relationships and connections are what van Leeuwen calls social technologies. “It is the emergence of social technologies (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter etc.,) that connects people and are used to initiate, develop and establish personal relationships.”
An example to illustrate the importance of building relationships in this new connection economy is how I have built a business relationship with the National Association of Haitian Professionals (NAHP). The group is a non-profit organization that focuses on connecting a global community of peers with career advancement resources, while highlighting the achievements of diaspora professionals.
Since both the organization and I have connected on social media, one of the co-founders and I would often show support for our individual platforms by sharing some of our posts. Michael Saunders agreed, “This is where social media comes in. The technology behind social media (social technology) has been responsible for launching our world into the Connection Economy. It’s created a world where connections are easier to manage, find, organize and leverage. It’s allowed us to jump past “using the Internet to access content” to “using the Internet to connect with people their content.”
As NAHP’s co-founder continued to build a rapport with me online, it was easier for me to agree to participate in a community event in New York. The point is, even though we’re both from the same community, we had to establish a relationship.
How, then, can you create a competitive advantage?
Make the time to connect and to build genuine relationships. Focus on growing meaningful relationships where in addition to sharing the same values, there is mutual trust, respect and kindness. At first, it might seem difficult to find those like-minded individuals to build relationships and collaborate with, but the time you invest now will eventually pay off.
According to van Leeuwen, “The currency for success in the connection economy is: Transparency, Authenticity, Generosity, Friendship, Creativity and Trust.”
Therefore, learn, build and provide value for others.
As you build relationships, you need to nurture them and offer value. One way to provide value is if you are consistently learning and growing. The more knowledgeable you are, the more of an asset you become.
I hope this post will make you think about building your own competitive advantage. The best time to begin is now. If you invest the time to build those relationships, your network will be different by next year.
Note: This article was originally published by Caribbean 360.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Daniella Bien-Aime is the founder of the Bien-Aime Post, a digital platform that focuses on business, leadership, education, and social media, within the context of the Haitian diaspora and Haiti. Follow her on Twitter @dbienaime.
Your turn! How else do you think we can create a competitive advantage in the connection economy? Use the comments section below to tell me.