“How do you always find the good stuff?”
he said shaking my hand vigorously – “there is just so much noise out there but whenever I see you present I discover something new to think about – what’s your secret?”
It wasn’t the first time I’d been asked that question – and hopefully it wouldn’t be the last – because there is no “secret” to doing what I do and I’m very happy to share and encourage as many people as possible to do the same – because that’s actually how I do what I do ……..
I’ve made a career out of keeping on top of the latest trends and I’ve prided myself on being the catalyst for innovation and change wherever I’ve been.
I’ve held many job titles in the past and while those have reflected my position and responsibility in the organisation that I was working in at the time, I have generally been hired for how I do what I do without my employer realising it at the time. In every role that I’ve had, I’ve been able to quickly identify the opportunities and consequences of new and emerging technologies and trends, or new applications of existing technology and leverage those for the benefit of the organisation at multiple levels.
People have frequently referred to me as a futurist although I insist that I’m a “now-ist” – I talk about things that are or will have an impact now or in the near future – it’s just that so many people are still so far behind in their thinking that it looks like the future to them!
But I don’t, and can’t possibly, know everything that there is to know – so how do I do it?
“With a little help from my friends”
When it comes to making sense of the deluge of digital information available to us these days, we need superhuman powers to sort, sift and think through the consequences an implications of the changes we observe around us and I discovered long ago that (sadly) I don’t have the mental or memory capacity to process this all on my own.
So I start with making a note of things that make me go “hmmmmm” or “ahhhhh”.
I used to write this stuff down but thankfully these days it’s a simple click to save a link in a cloud based service that is device independent – this is important to me as I constantly work across multiple devices and multiple locations – but the most important bit is what comes next:-
I constantly share what I find with interested people.
If I’m working within an organisation, this normally starts out with my immediate team and a handful of people across different functions that have expressed an interest in my work and if it’s a really enlightened organisation, I share outside the organisational boundaries with partners, suppliers and the eco-system at large. I ask for their thoughts, comments and insights, stimulating discussion (and often heated debate) about the consequences. Importantly, I ask them to please contribute what they find that contradicts or supports their views and of course to inject new things that they have seen that makes them go “hmmmmm”.
Ideally, the tool or method I have chosen to share the information on in the first place is flexible enough to cater for comments, feedback and contributions on an open or invited manner. It has been a struggle to find a sufficiently flexible platform in the past and has in of itself been a frequent topic of discussion, particularly within a corporate environment (my current tool of choice at time of writing is Cronycle).
As the group begins to draw on their own network of contacts it develops into a “community of interest”, which might splinter into sub-communities of special interest and the whole thing takes on a life of it’s own with me (or a small team if it really takes off) as the curator, moderator and agitator at the centre to keep the conversations going.
Now instead of one pair of eyes (and one deteriorating memory), we start building an organisational mine of information to dip into at will.
There will of course still be noise and there will still be effort involved in extracting “the good stuff” – but now it’s infinitely easier and my role can move to one I’m most comfortable with – that of Storyteller – the one who goes out and evangelises the thoughts, hopes, dreams and fears of the collective mind in order to stimulate innovation and change.
OK, OK – I’ll admit – that’s only the “art” part of the process – to do this professionally and make a career out of it there’s a whole lot more “science” to add in order to distil the data into actionable insights – something I will be covering in greater depth in the book I’m currently writing – but you have to start somewhere and these three steps are a good start:-
- capture what you see in a place you can share it
- start the discussion
- extract “the good stuff” and go tell the story
So there it is – my “secret” – I’d love you to share yours with me!