The Importance of Networking in Business: Triads

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Tribal Leadership" by Dave Logan, John King, and Halee Fischer-Wright. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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What can networking do for you and your business? What’s particularly powerful about networks of three?

In Tribal Leadership, authors Dave Logan, Halee Fischer-Wright, and John King explain how tribes develop through stages. At Stage 4, a tribal leader deliberately cultivates relationships with potential tribe members. The authors discuss three-part relationships (triads) in particular, identifying three main benefits: They’re stable, they’re easily expanded, and they enable creativity.

Keep reading to learn about the importance of networking in business, the Tribal Leadership way.

Build Interconnected Relationships

The authors explain that, at Stage 4, three-part relationships (triads) prevail. This looks like three people or three entities—such as a person, a tribe, or an organization—forming a relationship. 

A tribal leader actively builds relationships between potential tribe members by speaking to two things: who each person is and what they have to offer—in other words, their values and their work. As he connects people, they speak well of him to their own networks, and he benefits from this word-of-mouth networking. Imagine the head of a startup incubator who introduces various founders, speaking of their values and their skills. By connecting people, he spreads seeds for collaboration and tribal success. This demonstrates the importance of networking in business.

(Shortform note: In addition to business-oriented networking, informal, social networking can help workers develop friendships, grow more comfortable with their coworkers, and learn from each other. However, research finds that in social networking, women may be less apt to participate in after-office gatherings than men, since they often have families or children to take care of in addition to work. To counteract this, try introducing more social time, such as open collaboration time or group lunches, during the day.)

Three-part relationships have three main benefits: They’re stable, they’re easily expanded, and they enable creativity. 

  • Benefit #1: Three-part relationships are stable. Since they’re based on shared values, people can resolve their own conflicts by remembering that they agree on what matters most. This saves time, allowing leaders and tribe members to minimize issues.
  • Benefit #2: Three-part relationships easily expand networks. Since three-part relationships are so stable, a tribe can easily expand its network by incorporating additional people and organizations into their already-stable relationships. For instance, a founder with a small tribe might reach out to a college friend, who then connects him to some coders he knows, and so on.
  • Benefit #3: Three-part relationships enable creativity. The authors explain that groups of three facilitate cross-pollination of ideas and skills that lead to interdisciplinary learning. When three people with distinct backgrounds come together, each exposes the others to perspectives and questions that they’d never asked. Imagine a systems-thinker, an environmental activist, and a digital artist all coming together—innovative, visionary thinking would arise in the confluence of their unique areas of expertise. 
Mapping the Networks

In a paper on the power of informal networks, the McKinsey Institute recommends mapping your organization’s networks of relationships and using them to better understand how information flows and work gets done. Some of these relationships are three-part relationships (triads) as the authors suggest, yet research shows that dyads and tetrads are also common structures.

The informal, cross-departmental networks within an organization do function as creative catalysts, as the authors suggest. The Harvard Business Review writes that when urgent deadlines or difficult tasks arise, it’s not a business’s formal structures but these informal work networks that drum up the resources and morale to get things done. 

However, informal network mapping shows these networks aren’t entirely made up of triads—instead, their relationships take various forms and networks form spontaneously, often without triads or a tribal leader. Relationship types include dyads, where two people might relate with a one-way information flow, or an incomplete triad with one person in charge and the other two as subordinates (like a “v” shape). Often, someone sits within a matrix of connections while another is all but disconnected on the outskirts. This suggests that triads are just one kind of network relationship and that they aren’t strictly necessary to create work networks.
The Importance of Networking in Business: Triads

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  • Why culture makes all the difference when it comes to business
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Elizabeth Whitworth

Elizabeth has a lifelong love of books. She devours nonfiction, especially in the areas of history, theology, and philosophy. A switch to audiobooks has kindled her enjoyment of well-narrated fiction, particularly Victorian and early 20th-century works. She appreciates idea-driven books—and a classic murder mystery now and then. Elizabeth has a blog and is writing a book about the beginning and the end of suffering.

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