Barbara Shaw, CPLP, is Director of Education for PSA Security Network.
Too much information, often referred to as TMI, is a term that is generally used in casual conversation to indicate when someone has inadvertently spilled their guts on a topic of particularly sensitive or personal nature. We live in a world of instant access to information, both public and private, enabled by all of the smart devices we port around with us to stay continuously connected. I don’t doubt that a good many of us struggle with how to manage all of the chatter.
How do we keep up with the latest news and developments while avoiding becoming overwhelmed by the sheer volume of data bombarding us every day? We need to be resourceful and educated, but who has the time to read all of the trades, every vendor update, and each industry expert’s newsletter or blog? It truly can feel like too much information when research becomes a chore. As busy professionals, a four-step strategy can help to manage this rising tide of information while focusing on, and committing to, the vital content that is truly relevant to our current strategy.
Steps 1 & 2: Categorization & Scheduling
The first step is to split up the information into categories that you would like to focus on at different times, such as new technology trends, competitive intelligence, regulatory shifts in your space, etc. This helps to decipher from the masses of information what to pay attention to at any given time. The second step is to carve into your schedule that piece of time dedicated to reading the research you elected to review.
Here’s an example of step one and two coming together:
Monday, 7:30 a.m.: focus on new technology. What’s new or trending and why? Most of us need a lift on Monday morning — reading about something new and exciting will help to get your creative juices flowing, stimulate you mentally and drive a renewed focus.
Tuesday, 7:30 a.m.: focus on competitive intelligence. What is your competition up to? Who is making a move? Depending on what you uncover, it may not be what you want to think about on a Monday, but reading something you may need to react to on a Tuesday strategically gives you time to respond the rest of the week.
Wednesday, 7:30 a.m.: focus on the economy. Check the stock market to see who’s up, down and why. With a view into the information gleaned on Monday and Tuesday, Wednesday’s stock watch can become more interesting and more tactically significant.
Thursday, 7:30 a.m.: focus on regulatory shifts. What new laws, regulations and guidelines might affect your strategy? Do any of them result in new or different compliance measures? This will help direct where you plan to devote time in your next research effort.
Friday, 7:30 a.m.: focus on smart moves. Take the time to read about strokes of genius by smart persons and companies, and how you can use this in your personal day-to-day actions. You might learn something of strategic significance or just discover a great new conversation starter. This is the fun stuff, just enjoy it.
As you refine your sources of information, you can narrow them down to suit your needs — whether you are vertically aligned or a generalist. Conduct a keyword search on Google, set up alerts tracking the latest news from subject matter experts on LinkedIn, industry trades and admired companies. Make a point of simply asking where trusted consultants get their information. Taking a new direction and being turned on to a whole different perspective can prove enlightening.
If you are a manager, you can even give each one of your team members a rotating assignment and have them bring in fresh information from each different perspective to spark discussion at your weekly meetings, for example: Dave- new tech trends; Sarah- focus on competition; Kevin- stock watch, Lynda- regulatory shifts; and Dennis- smart moves in our space.
Steps 3 & 4: Commit and Communicate
The third step is to commit to your plan and carry it through. Step three is easier when you learn to protect that time set aside in step two for research. Set a repeating appointment in your calendar and create a folder in your email inbox for each research topic you are interested in. When it’s time for that piece of research, you will have fresh content waiting for you. Close your door and maintain this period as quiet time. Focus on what you are reading and do not multitask. Keep that window of time short but impactful.
The fourth step is to synthesize your findings with your team, trusted consultants and product partners to absorb the strategic significance of this information and to use this information to fortify your strategy. Step four involves taking what you have learned and using the good thoughts of others on your team, your product partners and consultants to help you to discover where and how this impacts your plan.
It can be very interesting when each day’s findings build on each other in a systematic way. For example, you might learn on Tuesday that Monday’s new technology trend is out of scope for your competition’s core area of expertise, but they are considering a related acquisition. On Wednesday, you uncover that the target acquisition’s stock is up and so is the stock of the new technology vendor. On Thursday, you discover that recent updates to a federal mandate will dictate the direction of a solution set involving key technology you read about on Monday. This information just put you ahead of the game. You realize it will directly affect some of your customers, and now you have the right information to give them timely and important recommendations on specific compliance measures. Finally, on Friday you learn of an exciting new development that will be a game-changer in your space. You now have a great opener to warm up that call you need to make to one of your new target clients.
Set your intentions on distilling out just what you what to know one day at a time. Commit to your time and protect that space. Share what you’ve learned and synthesize your findings with your team and trusted advisors. Take action to capitalize on this newfound wisdom. Finally, have fun with it. Before long, your too much information problem has turned into a valuable treasure hunt, step-by-step, uncovering the clues to your next great opportunity.
Barbara Shaw, CPLP, is director of Education for PSA Security Network. To request more information about PSA, visit www.securityinfowatch.com/10214742.