The Web has made it easier than ever to reconnect with long-lost professional colleagues. Does it pay to do so? New research says yes — and suggests that every smart manager will try.
Technology has enabled people to reconnect easily with networks of contacts that have gone dormant. And it turns out that reconnecting dormant relationships can be extremely useful. In one experiment, advice that executives received from ties that had been dormant for at least three years was as useful, and often even more useful, than the advice they received from current relationships.
The big payoffs of dormant ties are that: (1) They are great sources of unexpectedly novel insights, (2) reconnecting is extremely efficient, as it requires a minimal investment of time and (3) reconnecting is not like starting a relationship from scratch. People still have feelings of trust and a shared perspective, which are critical for receiving valuable knowledge from someone.
The authors identify and answer “frequently asked questions” about reconnecting dormant ties. One concerns the staying power of relationships once reconnections have occurred. Typically, they conclude, these reconnected relationships do not become fully renewed and maintained, but those who reach out cite the experience as overwhelmingly positive.