We often talk about social media in terms of tools, but is it actually more of a mindset shift? Strategist and best-selling author Erica Dhawan thinks it is. In her work and new book, Get Big Things Done, she talks about connectional intelligence, the number-one skill we all need to develop in the connected era. Dhawan says success today is not just about amassing Twitter followers and LinkedIn contacts, but about what you do with those connections to create value and meaning.

Here are five ways to get into a connectionally intelligent mindset.

1. Use social tools to drive your mission.

Define your dream first. Ask yourself what is the big thing you want to get done before launching a website or setting up a new Twitter handle. Clarify your goals and motives for each social media platform and carefully decide which platforms will actually add value to your organization. Once you have a clear mission, you also don't always have to start a new conversation. Look to amplify a trend in progress or reach out to an existing cause that needs help.

2. Before making connections, ask yourself, "What do I know and what do I not know?'

"What do I know?" is the first question. We often overlook the connections and resources we already have in a frenzy to reach out and grow as fast as possible. Before making new connections, ask, "What do we not know?" to guide how and who else you could connect with. Focus on a solid foundation and sustainable, step-by-step growth.

3. Use the power of networks to find solutions in unexpected places.

Using networks can speed up the rate at which we solve problems. Look at CrowdMed, Innocentive, or Quirky. They all put questions out to a crowd and rely on the proper structuring and sifting of the answers to create unprecedented value. The key is asking the right question and designing a problem in a fun way so people want to pitch in and solve it. DuoLingo, a free online language learning platform that also serves as a crowd-sourced text translation system. In DuoLingo, when learners reach a certain level, the sentences they practice on are actual sentences from news websites that need translation. When enough people get the same translation, the system considers it accurately translated and uses it. Using the wisdom of the crowd, his method of translating basic website content is as accurate as using professional translators. DuoLingo inventor Luis von Ahn was able to connect the dots in technology, culture, language, and information in a way that no one had before.

4. Build connectedness into the core of your company culture.

Accelerate your employees connectedness by leveraging their informal knowledge. Host internal TED Talks. Allow junior employees to become internal thought leaders through a blogging and podcast network. Build communities that allow real time and open communication so employees can easily access peer knowledge when it's needed.

5. Use social tools to scale and sustain relationships.

We've all heard of speed networking outside your company, but what about applying it internally? Especially when company branches are spread out internationally, there is often a huge missed opportunity to connect these employees globally to share knowledge. A new video networking platform called Spindows accelerates communication across geographies, enabling employees to discover new colleagues and new sources of ideas.

There's much more about connectional intelligence and adopting a whole new mindset about social tools in Dhawan's work and new book, Get Big Things Done.

Now it's your turn. Are you connecting intelligently? Are you still relying on the old wisdom of networking or are you thinking outside the box? Do you think about how you are using each social tool in service of your bigger mission? Please let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.

 

Published on: May 13, 2015
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.