With the incredible array of online information sources about people and organizations, it doesn't seem that useful to spend a lot of time and money at in-person networking events. Are networking meetings dying?
You are describing two different activities, both of which are useful in developing your business. The first is information discovery, the collection of information about the environment, markets, players, and activities. This is a function that your online searches, clipping services, alerts and subscriptions can go a long way to fulfilling. Although the Internet seems like an endless source of this information, there are some specific skills needed to capture relevant, timely and accurate information (i.e., don't believe everything you read on the Internet and what you read may be accurate but out of date).
The second is information integration, the vetting, processing, and correlation of collected information. This is a function that you can best accomplish by spending time meeting with others and discussing the information you (all) have collected. Is the information you collected valid and current? Is it relevant to the issues to which you want to apply it? What other information is available that your sources might not have? Can the information you do have be used in other ways that might benefit others?
The most creative organizations actively switch between discovery and integration. A recent MIT study showed that about 40% of the variation in creativity can be attributed to this interaction between information processing modes. Furthermore, although the organizations and individuals with highly effective discovery processes are more productive than average, those with highly effective integration processes are significantly more productive. The conclusion is that online searches may be useful, but the person-to-person integration activities is the source of the highest productivity.Tip:
Robust information discovery processes are important but don't consider them a replacement for networking. What you may want to do, however, is to make sure your personal interactions are useful by focusing on the integration and information validation and exchange rather than the typical "exchanging business cards and shallow chit chat" focus of many networking encounters. Make your face to face time all about information integration.© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA