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Where are your packaging networks?

CHICAGO, November 8, 2013 () – During October I had the opportunity to make presentations at meetings of two industry associations/groups. The different nature and style of the two organizations was striking, but common elements were quite evident, particularly the value provided for individuals from exposure to the thinking and approaches of colleagues.

Yes, caution is essential when competitors gather, and anti-trust policies are important preambles to sessions. But completely within the letter and spirit of the law and ethical behavior, these organizations offer a path towards strengthening industry segments in ways that day-to-day competitive activities can’t.

To be clear, I am absolutely for vigorous competition between companies on both inter- and intra-segment playing fields. Part of the reason that industries, including packaging, are able to continually increase the value they provide to consumers and the world is through a steady stream of innovation and improvement. Competition is a key catalyst that fuels that stream, and I’ve written previously (and will again) on the leverage a company can exert through smart, well placed innovation.

However, there are topics or issues that are too complex, broad or far reaching for one company to handle effectively. And for which critical mass of capability and consistency in messaging can only be achieved by multiple companies or individuals pooling their interest and resources. Industry marketing campaigns have been very effective; I don’t have to do more than mention milk, beef and pork for their tag lines to immediately come to mind.

I want to focus on technology for just a bit, for I believe it to be a venue where tremendous opportunities for individual development abound. A variety of associations, societies, institutes, councils, etc., with specialized objectives and focus are available to the individual who wants to broaden or deepen their experience, insights and knowledge, and is willing to put an investment of time and effort into doing so.

I’m not going put forward a list or speak specifically about any one option; what is right for any one person won’t be right for another. I would instead observe that many of those I have come to admire and emulate have found their way over their careers to become involved in one or more organizations where opportunities to both contribute and gain knowledge and insights match up with their career, job and personal objectives. They both gain and give back.

Some things to think about in considering where to get involved:

• Where would you like to grow knowledge or skills to help you perform better in your current role?
• For roles you would like to be able to move to?
• Where are issues too big for one company to handle, but which are important enough to spend time and energy on?
• Where do customers belong and participate?
• Suppliers?
• The best competitors?
• People you admire the most?
• Where might you be able to find people that can turn into valued colleagues?
• Are you at a point where learning is your primary objective, or at a point where you feel a call to service to others in a particular industry or segment?

You’ll think of others that are relevant to where you are and want to go. The underlying point I want to make is that in our careers we each have the opportunity to build a network of people that adds richness to our work and overall life. Most of us do a decent job of building or adding to that network with the people with whom we directly work. Connections around industry topics or disciplines of mutual interest can help you weave a wider and richer personal tapestry of support, challenge and growth.

If you haven’t already done so, consider where you might best get started. You’ll benefit, your employer will and so will the big “P” Packaging industry.

Timothy Bohrer is the owner of Pac Advantage Consulting:

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