Firstly, a few questions to ponder…

  1. Who are the most important people in your life?
  2. Who are the most important people in helping you achieve your business goals?

I am guessing that when asked these questions most of us would reply partner, friends and or family in response to the first question. The majority I assume would say the same in answering the second question and probably throw team mates or investors into the mix.

But what if the real answer were strangers? How does that make us feel? A little uneasy maybe. After all which of us didn’t receive that early childhood lesson about not talking to strangers? Perhaps that early lesson conditioned us to think carefully about who we interact with and in so doing limit our possibilities for growth and achievement both personally and professionally.

This thought is something which Alan Gregerman invites us to consider in his book “The Necessity of Strangers: The Intriguing Truth about Insight, Innovation and Success.”

So as not to précis the whole book, his premise goes something like this: Our true potential is not something that our close friends are going to help us realise. This shouldn’t really be a surprise to us, after all we like friends because we share a mutual connection and support for one another. The team mates we recruit into our businesses are often selected because they are predicted to “fit in”, that notion of alignment and all singing from the same hymn sheet.

All well and good, yet here’s the BUT. Who really challenges us to take a serious look at ourselves? Who brings the fresh perspective that ignites innovation and opens up new possibilities? Who are the people that are going to help craft a world class team that investors want to see? Who will bring that fresh spark to the workplace? Who is going to help us actualise our latent potential and make us better leaders?

Ask yourself those questions and be honest, it isn’t friends and family is it? No it’s strangers.

Here’s another question: How many people are you connected to through social media that you have never met? I have almost 1000 Twitter followers the vast majority of whom I have never met and probably never will. Perhaps you are the same. So why do we embrace these connections in the virtual world but not in the physical world? Gregerman suggests it’s partially a fear of being taken outside of our comfort zone.

Here’s the point. Take a look around your work space and the events you attend and make it your mission to speak to the people you don’t know rather than always sticking with the familiar safe faces. Step outside of your comfort zone and find the strangers who might just have that pearl of wisdom that helps you grow your business, remain competitive or unlock your potential. Those people who might just be your next team members. In essence if you want to innovate and collaborate, if you want to successfully rise to the challenges facing today’s business leaders, be a better thinker and a better person then you need to open your mind set up to the value of others’ knowledge and insight. Hence the necessity of strangers.

Ken Whipp is an Enabler at Entrepreneurial-Spark

“Applications for the world’s largest FREE business accelerator are now open!”


Photo Credit: Ashley Campbell, Flickr (CC BY 2.0) with modification