“Forecasters who extrapolate from today inevitably get tomorrow wrong…(but) by pitting multiple scenarios of the future against one another and leaving many different doors open, you can prepare yourself for a future that is inherently unpredictable. Brainstorming pays off. And the more possibilities you can entertain, the less likely you are to be blindsided.”- Peter Coy and Neil Gross,Business Week, August 30, 1999 I use this quote often in presentations because it has so dramatically shaped my thinking. It’s at the heart of the philosophies, disciplines, and tools I’ve sought to learn, compile, and develop in the past 10 years.
It’s become clear over time that my strategic mentors tend to be visionaries who are actively pushing boundaries and seeing beyond what others anticipate. I match up well with these personalities because they stretch me also, and I help translate their visions into implementable steps necessary to realize new and big ideas.
So in keeping with the focus so far this week on Bill McDonald and Kansas City Infobank, Paula White’s guest column on renegades is right on the mark. As Paula describes herself on her blog, she’s a “grandma, an educator, a teacher, and a thinker.” She has numerous educational distinctions, and she’s on the forefront of actually applying social media in an educational setting (quick partial translation: I met her on Twitter!).
In today’s guest post, she shares her experience in encouraging students that it’s okay to think boldly and unusually because that thinking leads to great new things:
Think about people you know who have been considered renegades. WHY were they considered that? Did they do something different? Did they do something no one else would? Did they do something unexpected or unusual? Were they just out of the mainstream?
As a gifted resource teacher, I often see students who think there is something wrong with them because they ARE different. They recognize that they have thoughts others don’t—that they think more deeply about common things and that they look at the world differently than their peers. I sometimes have to work to help students accept who they are because they, too, are often out of the mainstream. They think differently, learn differently and may even try to lead or teach differently. That doesn’t mean that they are better or worse than others. They are just different. And all of us have to, at some point in our lives, learn to respect and honor differences to co-exist on this planet.
Misfits. . . rebels. . . troublemakers. . . and you can’t ignore them, because they push the human race forward. Students identify with these traits and by looking at the creative geniuses Apple chose to highlight, they begin to understand that learning differently, thinking differently, acting differently is okay.
Rebels, renegades, thinkers, doers, pushers, sometimes troublemakers. . . Does that describe anyone you know? Have you ever thought about how lonely that path might be?
Remember the renegades. . . and be their friend. Their creativity, their thinking, their pushing the envelope just may change the world. - Paula White
Unreasonable time expectations or well-intentioned but unachievable deadlines are a fact of business life. As a two-person operation at Kansas City Infobank, we constantly battled the swings between trying to sell projects and then having too many to be able to meet every deadline we faced. This imbalance created the need to strategically negotiate project timing expectations with clients.
I learned you’ll always have a better shot at successfully negotiating more advantageous deadlines if your strategy is to present value trade-offs that go beyond simply asking for more time. Instead, talk about what more you can deliver with more time.
Step one is figuring out what you can deliver within the initial time expectation:
How complete can you be?
Are there critical elements you won’t get completed?
What impact might this gap have on the project outcome or business relationship?
Just as importantly though, understand and communicate other valuable elements you could deliver with an extended timeframe. Among the possibilities:
Clearer organization of the information
Richer creativity or innovation
Deeper strategic insights
Your client may still need to stick with the original deadline, but presenting a valuable strategic alternative creates a much better likelihood of successfully negotiating for more time. - Mike Brown
Using secondary research techniques was our starting problem-solving approach at Kansas City Infobank to be able to get smart fast when tackling a new project or industry assignment. We informally defined secondary research techniques as “ways to find what you’re looking for among answers to questions already asked and answered by others.”
Secondary research was ideal for me since it was similar to school (which I always enjoyed) and required a strategic, problem-solving approach that’s been valuable not only in business, but in many other situations.
5 Keys to Getting Smart Fast
There are several keys to effectively using secondary research techniques including strong skills in anticipation, visualization, detecting clues, and making sound assumptions.
Here are 5 keys to getting smart fast through secondary research techniques that Bill McDonald taught me that I still use all the time:
Start by anticipating what your ultimate answer will be. Approximate the answer and its form: If it’s a prediction, what’s it likely to be? If it’s a recap of something, how extensive will it be? Approximating what you’re looking for helps you know when you’ve found the answer and aids directly in step 2.
Anticipate what components that could make up the answer will look like and where they might be found. Rarely do you find the exact answer; instead, you need to piece it together as you would a puzzle. Start by thinking through what the “puzzle pieces” look like: quotes, number, expert names, trend information, news, etc., then map out where the pieces will likely be located.
Armed with hypotheses on the answer and its pieces, begin quickly searching and scanning information sources. Having imagined the information upfront allows you to get through a search more quickly, i.e. if you need numbers to develop a forecast, it’s easy to look at articles online and see right away if numbers are included. The key is grabbing as much information as appears relevant early on and leaving heavy analysis for later.
When you’ve captured these first sources, review them for more clues on where other information may reside. Are there sources or experts mentioned you haven’t explored but need to? Where are they located and how can you get to them?
There’s certainly more to be written about secondary research techniques, but these five keys will help you be more successful whenever you have to find out an answer online or in printed material. – Mike Brown
Bill had an amazing ability to phone total strangers, chat with them, and prompt them to share incredible information through asking questions. Listening to these calls made a strong impression on me about the value of directly asking great questions of knowledgeable people. I’ve never matched Bill’s skills, but that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate the gift he has for conversation and questioning.
Today, however, since it’s so easy to email someone a question – type a few lines, hit send, and wait for a reply – fewer people seem to phone directly when they need information or something resolved.
But just because you sent an email doesn’t mean you really asked a question. That implies the recipient actually read the question, and is in a position to adequately respond without ongoing dialogue.
Despite the apparent ease of email, it’s often a much better alternative to pick up the phone and call. If you can talk live, you’ll at least know they received the question, find out if your question prompts questions for them, clarify any confusion, and engage in a dialogue that could provide a much richer understanding.
So put down the Blackberry or push away from the keyboard and call with your question! - Mike Brown