If you want to expand your network, don’t stick to people like yourself

So my daughter started school this week and I was amazed at how she, and the other 4 year olds in her class, just seemed to make connections so easily. I hesitate to call these connections friendship since I am not sure 4 year olds understand what friendship means. But put them in a playground and everyone just gets on.

My daughter’s class reflects the incredible diversity in Cambridge. And I have no doubt that if she keeps an open mind, she will learn a lot from the other children in her class.

I was reminded of this when I met some candidates at the MBA2U fair in Munich yesterday. Quite a number of people, after giving a brief introduction of their profile, were very keen to know just how many students in our class had a similar profile and career interest. They felt that if there were more people with similar interests, then that would reinforce their decision to join a particular MBA Programme.

I didn’t make the mental connection at the time but it occurred to me later that, while it is comforting to have classmates with similar backgrounds and interests, the key thing to improving the quality of your network is to talk to people different from yourself. Simply talking to similar people won’t expand your network significantly since you would probably know the same set of people that they know and it wouldn’t increase your own knowledge that much. Whereas making a connection with someone with very different backgrounds to yourself means gaining access to their networks, which would be completely different to your own.

This is also why we try to build a diverse class. Because a diverse class of 160 students can help you build a larger network than if you were with a thousand people all similar to yourself.

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