by Risa Sacks
“Future ready” for me has always been about discovering, learning and using the best tools for finding information wherever it lives, and connecting to the ‘information holders.’
I specialize in “Primary Research” – finding answers that don’t already appear online. My job ranges from interviewing experts to learn the information in their heads, to digging in archives for some obscure piece of paper. While the initial search is to find what answers are available online, the next level of online search focuses on new ‘sources’ for information and how to reach them.
Some examples of being ‘future ready’ over the past few years include finding information in the many new places it lives, using new tools to reach out to the experts identified, and communicating with them in the manner they most prefer.
Finding information where it lives
We all know that long gone are the days where all we had to consider were printed materials. To identify people who might fill in the blanks, expand information found online, clarify, add levels of richness and nuance, I now need to search the blogosphere, tweets, video and audio feeds, power point presentations, discussion boards and specialty groups to name a few of the places information now ‘lives.’ An Addictomatic search (www.Addictomatic.com) brings information from Twitter, Bing News, Google Blog Search, Truveo Video Search, YouTube, Flickr, Blinkx Mainstream Vid News; Wikio, Twingly Blog Search, Yahoo Web Search, Friendfeed and Ask.com News…you get the idea.
Posting a request on specialty groups within LinkedIn, Google, etc., and discussion lists in SLA, BusLib, Association of Independent Information Professionals (aiip.org) brings help and recommendations from targeted convocations of experts – whether it’s green tech or durable medical equipment sales. And all in very real time.
Seeing a YouTube video of a Chief Medical Officer helps me evaluate that he comes across as believable, caring, conscientious and competent – just what I’d want in recommending an expert witness. Providing the video link to the law firm clients also helps their selection process.
A LinkedIn search can find me telecommunications experts from Nepal to Namibia, or coal mining maintenance personnel within 25 miles of the zip code of a specific mine in Montana.
Reaching out to experts and sources
Once I’ve identified possible experts, new tools help reach out to them. Anything that provides a point of connection, as opposed to a completely cold contact, is useful.
Though I have a number of issues with LinkedIn and it’s far from perfect, I’ll use it for several examples. Recently posting requests to LinkedIn Groups for Durable Medical Equipment and Hospital Infection Control not only identified experts, but also provided entrees – “tell him I sent you”, “I’ve been in the field for 20 years – drop me a note if I can help” and “feel free to give me a call.”
With LinkedIn, if I link to 10 people and each of them has 50 connections, I have second level connections to 500 people, and if each of those have 50 connections, all of a sudden, my universe of third level connections is 25,000 strong. I can contact them using ‘inMail’ or just mentioning that we are LinkedIn connections seems to provide a level of legitimacy to my request.
For ongoing and in-depth communications, we can Skype, text, video conference, and webX, as well as using the trusty traditional telephone. The world is totally mobile, so talking from airports or the beach is common. With my ‘smart device’ I can snap and send a picture or video of the shack that’s the supposed ‘branch office’ of the potential merger partner, or show clients close ups of documents that I find on a distant site.
One World……Many stories…Future Ready
While I don’t know what the future will bring, I know it will include new tools to help identify relevant people, new ways to contact them and new methods for starting and continuing meaningful communication with them.
In today’s world, information is constantly expanding – at the same time we are more connected than ever. A fruit seller in Tunisia can spark a revolution across a region. A doctor at the Mayo clinic may help diagnose a child in a remote African region. Every day we see increased evidence of the global interconnectedness of economies and lives. Including a variety of people and viewpoints is critical for us to provide more complete answers. So as information professionals, ‘future ready’ will help us continue to increase our ‘range’ and ‘grasp’ as we keep on reaching out.
Risa Sacks is a freelance researcher who provides primary research services to companies, research departments and other researchers. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or, of course, by phone at 508 852-8686.