Why is so much importance given to networking for corporate success?
Most of the information in the world are not accessible by search engines, but got through only personal connections.
Who are the best interns in your company this summer? Why did customer X stop using your product? Why did we have this feature in our old product? What new problems are brought by the customers?
For millions of such critical questions that can change the future of your company, you will not find the answer on Google nor from your own imagination. You need to get it from the right people. How do you know who knows the answer? How can you get the information from that person?
The fundamental goal of networking is to find the right people who can answer your questions. Again, those people will give you the right answers only if you set up the right trade. What can you provide them in exchange of that information? It can start from upbeat positive personality that can energize them and go all the way to providing a key information that need to succeed [Do you know Jon’s team is looking to hire a new RoR developer?].
Thus, a corporate executive is often an information trader. He/she knows the right people, can charm them the right way and can trade information that can be very crucial to grow the company.
Next to information the value of networking is in collaboration. Humans build complex stuff through collaboration. How do you get a random person to collaborate with you on your idea. Again, it helps in knowing the right person and charming them the right way.
Executives manage people and a great executive is one who can connect with the workers, customers and investors well. Would you rather have the head of your company not understand the people at all?
After collaboration comes trust and judgment. Executives use other people as their eyes and ears. Through networking they get introduced to common connections and might use your judgment to evaluate the new person. For instance, they might come across a supplier through their old college roommate. If they trust the roommate they can move with the supplier quick. Life works through the web of trust.
It is a stupid notion that merit and networking are somehow antithetic concepts. A merit of an executive can be judged by the power of his/her network. Understand that networking is not mere attending an event and shaking hands. It is about understanding people, trading information and convincing them to work with/for you.