Use of the buzzword, “collisions,” has increased lately.  In entrepreneurial circles, it is often used to refer to the population density of innovative thinkers in places like Silicon Valley.  People use it to articulate the reason so many new technologies are developed out of one geographic location.  They say that since many engineers, technologists, artists, developers, etc. live in the Valley, the chances of them running into each other, grabbing a cup of coffee and documenting the next great technological achievement on the back of a napkin are higher than anywhere else on earth.  They may be right.

That said, it stands to reason that we could create opportunities for collisions in our own communities – even in our own companies – if we simply allow for and seek them out.  Here’s my thinking:  I’m often hired by corporations – very large companies – who bring me in not necessarily to teach their employees how to network outside the company for sales or marketing purposes (I get those, too), but rather to help their employees connect within the confines of their own company.

It should come as no surprise.  Even among small- to medium-sized companies, there are plenty of employees – people to who see each other every day – who don’t know one another’s names, what the other does for the company, what project work is coming out of groups outside their own, etc.  It seems there is a very fine line between the day you see a co-worker for the first time and the day it feels too awkward or embarrassing to say, “You know, I see you every day at the water cooler… what is your name?  What do you do?  Who are you???”

Can you relate?  I’m guessing you can!  We have opportunities for collisions – for chances to share information about the work we do, the challenges we face, the opportunities we have before us – these opportunities could lead to great collaborative, profitable, meaningful endeavors if we simply give them a chance.

My challenge to you is this:  Think of one person in your company who you do not know well.  You may or may not know his/her name.  You may or may not know what role he/she plays at the company.  You may or may not have opportunity to work with him/her in the future.  But, do this:  Go to him/her.  Ask for the opportunity to meet in the break room simply to learn about what he/she is working on.  Here’s the recipe for getting to know your co-worker:

  1. One dose of courage to say hello.  Yep, you’ll need to allow for a bit of vulnerability – indeed, it can feel a bit awkward.  But, I guarantee, you will feel no more awkward than he/she does – your target person will be so grateful you made the effort.
  2. 10 minutes of your time.  Find a quiet spot – a break or lunch room, the hallway, wherever.  Sit down or stand, it makes no difference so long as you show a genuine interest in learning from and listening to your co-worker.
  3. A couple of open-ended questions.  How long have you been with the company?  What are you working on?  What is your vision for the organization?  How can I help?  You get the idea.

That’s it!  Whether you have the chance to work together or not, that you will learn a bit more about a colleague will pay dividends now or later.  My recommendation to you is to seek the types of collisions that make life in Silicon Valley and other densely populated areas so exciting.  Start inside your own company.

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