Friday, 18 February 2011

If I were to give a speech...

First published in 2009

If I were to give a speech - This would be it!

Hello, and thank you for having me here. My name is Rika Nauck and my father in law would be proud to hear that I am introducing myself as a ‘dilettante’. So here I am: Rika Nauck, dilettante!

When I was still young, ‘looking pretty’ worked well for me to achieve things, I nevertheless felt the strain of having to be successful in something. I just couldn’t decide what that might be, since I had much too many interests. In his calm and charming way my father in law explained to me, that if I wanted to, I could divide people into two groups; one group is good in just one thing, but pretty useless in everything else – they are called nerds. The other group knows just a bit about everything, but they are not very good in any particular area – these are the dilettantes.

Unfortunately it’s the nerds who get Nobel prices and become CEOs of companies, while dilettantes usually end up in a support role. They are able brew coffee, proof-read a paper, re-design the office space and manage the expenses all at the same time, and since they lack fancy certificates and awards, secretary or business support, as it is called these days, is one of the obvious choices of profession for them.

And here comes the part where I usually get a lot of booing from one half of the population and a lot of Yays from the other one, and I’m fully aware that I might be beaten up for this. However, I am claiming that nerds are mainly male and dilettantes are mainly female. There are exceptions – I give you that - and we even have names for them: It’s wimps… and …bitches.

But, whatever the gender: nerds fall into a crisis when threatened in their field, while dilettantes feel threatened in any field they touch. Hence dilettantes have a low self esteem, and usually need many years to accept their role and to stop competing with nerds; they just won’t win.

I needed another 20 years after I had spoken to my father in law, to eventually acknowledge that I am a dilettante and that this is the best thing that could happen to me. I might not be rich – yet – but with the knowledge I have accumulated over the years I can pull myself out of any misery. All that we dilettantes have to do, is to find the niches in which we can outsmart the nerds, and the aim of this talk is to inspire you to trust your set of skills. You can do more than you think!

Take networking! It is categorized as soft skill – what in nerdy terms means: not worth the effort! However, they do network, they just call it differently, and they are doing it brilliantly. Nerds are organized in professional scenes which are fine tuned networks with a picking order, information on who knows what, and calling in favours is an absolutely common practice. If you can play your scene you will get far.

Dilettants despise of all that: for them this means favourism, and using people for profit – and hence they only network for social reasons, because then one can call it 'helping each other'.

When, some years ago, I wanted to go to a workshop on networking which was organized by the women’s network in my workplace, I needed authorization of my boss in order to attend. I was nervous because I never had asked for such a thing before, braced myself and started uttering stuff of ‘women’s network’ and ‘workshop’, and got as a response: ‘Ah, is this your knitting club? Yeah well, you can go.’

Knitting club? I knew he was joking, but that this phrase crossed his mind at this moment in time, and being in a working environment – I think that is telling, and  I can’t even blame him. He is working in a male environment and that means that one ‘moves in a scene’ rather then ‘belongs to a network’. So firstly, there is a clash in terminology. Secondly, he is a nerd by definition; he has a blind spot for these things.

We dilettantes are actually brilliant networkers, but we don’t know it because we are rubbish in defining what we mean by that. We are so scared that we might be blamed for taking advantage of people and that we might have something dubious or shifty in mind, that we rather not commit to it.

Heather White – she is the CEO of Magic of Networking and gave this workshop I was attending – she defined it brilliantly. Networking is like throwing a stone into a lake and causing ripples on the water. They will reach the other side to be picked up; they will mingle with ripples caused by others and some of those will reach you. It is a lovely image and it basically means what goes round comes round.

If you would encourage picking orders, and pushing people, you most likely would find yourself very quickly  in the company of similar minded individuals, and hence in a rather unpleasant environment – well, except if that is what you were after.

The most successful networks however, are the ones which are non-intrusive. You introduce yourself, you leave your name and your card with contact details; you have dropped your stone.  You let people introduce themselves and collect their cards, you caught a ripple. That’s it; the rest is wait and see. The rest of the networking is done after you met people. They talk with others, you talk with others, and at one point proposition and demand will find their match. Win-win for everybody.

Networks go further than scenes; they look outside the box, they need nerds and dilettantes equally. And see - alone we are just that: Nerds and dilettantes. Once we are connected in a network and starting to compliment each other we become ‘Experts’ and ‘Connectors’. All the knowledge an expert has is worth nothing if nobody knows that it is there.

In a world as connected as ours these days, experts can’t afford anymore to only work their scene and to stick between themselves. And I don’t mean experts scientifically. If plumbers only communicate with plumbers because that is what they like to talk about, they will run out of business. They may need information on how technology is changing, or how to run the business more efficiently, or how to find customers in their area to reduce cost of driving. I may be in dire need of a plumber – which I actually am … so if we both would just know somebody who knows …

Things are moving quickly, Innovation is what is asked for these days, and that needs communication between the scenes; it needs people who travel these universes and who know just enough of many things to be able to bring the right people into contact.

So in the end of the day the message should not be:

Nerds VS. Dilettantes
Experts AND Connectors

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