Much has been said about the benefits of a personal learning network, or PLN. A PLN can help you through challenging times, when creativity is at a low. It’s also a “place” to share new ideas and get feedback, not to mention a way to stimulate new ideas or choose a new direction, all to the benefit of one’s workplace.
But a PLN can do much more: it can pull you back to a better place when the rigors of work get overwhelming.
This happened to me just yesterday. After another grueling week of work, extending back to the beginning of December, I arrived home but found myself with about 20 minutes to spare while I prepared dinner, so I went about clearing email from my phone. Uncharacteristically, I responded to the email from Facebook about my 99 missed notifications. Now, for those unfamiliar, that means more than 99. I made a few comments and liked a few posts and went back to making dinner. Then my phone lit up like a Christmas tree. One of my valued network friends posted on Twitter that I was missed, and that I was missing a chat I used to regularly attend. By the time I was able to respond, there were 15 Twitter mentions from several friends participating in the chat.
It was a welcome reminder. I have been so caught up in the busyness of work that I was missing the big picture of work, which includes interacting with colleagues around the world. They enhance my perspective and improve my performance. Getting my job done was not necessarily doing my job well.
People seem to confuse networks with groups. Perhaps it’s just semantics, but there is an important distinction relevant to my experience. A group contains any number of individuals who may or may not have anything in common other than being a member of the group. There’s no inherent relationship between members. In contrast, a network is something you build, one relationship at a time. I’ve joined many groups over the years, and I’ve never felt the sense of belonging that I do by being part of a network. You can leave a group just as quickly as you join one. That’s not true of a network. Once an active member of a network that you develop for yourself, you can never leave, nor should you. If your network is strong, your absence is missed. Your network will be calling you very soon.
So join me in some “pencils up” time. Let’s insist on time for our personal development, specifically time to develop, cultivate, and maintain our networks. They are invaluable to the work that we do, and we need to make time to nurture and cultivate them.
“Just when I thought I was out… they pull me back in.”
The Godfather: Part III
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