Connectivity: Key to Successful Innovation

How to Jump-Start Entrepreneurship” by Philip Delves Broughton is an op-ed piece in the Dec. 26 Wall Street Journal that wisely notes how complex the recipe for entrepreneurial success is. But the real magic sauce, he argues, is connectivity. Start-ups and innovators need to be connected to those who know how to solve the many problems they will face along the way. This connectivity is not easy to promote, but the Start-up America Partnership he discusses is doing exactly that by creating groups of entrepreneurs that can help other entrepreneurs forge the connections they need, such as connecting with D.C. lobbyists to assist with tasks requiring government support.

In my experience, the most successful entrepreneurs work hard to develop and maintain relationships with a wide variety of influencers and examples of success. The broad scope of connectivity may not be reflected by large numbers of connections, but by diverse and high-quality connections. The quality of the connection is crucial. Not just a name card in hand or a Twitter follower, but a person with whom meaningful exchanges have taken place and can take place in the future. These relationships can be acquaintances rather than long friendships, but they have the added quality that comes from time together, from sharing tips and best practices, from repeated encounters, and from periodic “pinging” through phone, email, or personal contact. The two parties see each other as interesting with something to offer to the other, and exchanges are perceived as having potential mutual value. These kind of relationships require deliberate efforts to create and maintain. Diverse, broad, and healthy relationships of this kind can lead to the connectivity that engenders success in entrepreneurial ventures and many other fields.

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