As I discussed in Evaluating Performance of Concept Workers, evaluating the performance of a concept worker is difficult because there's no right answer and most often the evaluator knows less about the subject than the worker.
Thus, the bottom line in evaluating a concept workers performance is by looking at:
- Was a reasonable process used?
- Are the conclusions reasonable?
- How would this compare to results from other concept workers?
"Look, I talked to a couple of people who have done this before. They said I've gone through the right steps. I've looked at the right stuff. My answer seems pretty reasonable. If they would have done it, they would have come up with the same thing."Limits of Search
In Value from Social Media, I looked at a scenario where I'm evaluating a particular solution for my company / organization. Through Google, I find a lot of information. But in many cases, I will still be left feeling uncomfortable ...
- What’s really going to happen?
- Did I miss something important?
- How important are the various issues?
- Is my answer reasonable?
- Experience - What have been the experiences of other organizations (not the canned case studies) when they’ve used this solution.
- Boundaries / Existence - I’ve got a particular issue and I’m not sure if answers to that issue exist out there, I’ve not found it in my searching.
- Confirmation - I’m beginning to have an answer, but I’d like to get confirmation of the answer based on my particular situation based on experience.
- Importance - Some of the issues I see, I’m not sure how important they are in practice, should I be concerned.
I'm coming to believe this is the most important Knowledge Worker Skill Gap.
Before you can reach into a network or community to seek conversation, you generally need to have spent time on
- Building some level of connection (network building).
- Being ready to engage to seek conversation (network access).
High-performing people tend to have stronger, more intentional networks.The word "intentional" is intentional. You have to look systematically at your networks and communities to be in position to be able to use them as part of your work and learning. As part of your top-down evaluation, one of the points you have to evaluate is whether you have appropriate networks and communities. Even if you are a member of LinkedIn, you may not have links to people in the right fields. Thus, you may have to spend time building some initial links so that you can reach out effectively. Similarly, you should spend a bit of time finding the right communities.
I personally do a lot of my network building slowly. I try to get people into my networks when I meet them (for example connect on LinkedIn). I keep my ears open for new communities and often lurk for a while to see what's going to happen there.
When I'm relatively new to an area, then I spend much more time building my network. Recently I started up with a new client in a new area. I spent a good chunk of time my first month reaching out (mostly through LinkedIn) to make connections with people who had lots of related experience to get thoughts and ideas around particular issues that we might face - and found a lot more issues that I hadn't considered. I also signed up to a couple Ning communities where I'm lurking. Now I have a great starting point when I want further conversation.
So bottom line is that it's really important for us to be able to seek out different forms of conversation inside and especially outside our organizations. There are a myriad of different places and ways to seek conversations.
A few months ago, we asked how people went about deciding where and how to seek conversations. The answer was, as always, it depends.
Karyn Romeis uses a series that goeses from people she already knows who might be experts then to less known connections. She looks at distance vs. likelihood vs. experience vs. cost.
Karl Kapp makes the point that you should ask in multiple places because you never know who might have the answer and the overall cost is negligible.
I think there's some risk of being spammy if you ask too broad, but Karl has somewhat convinced me that what I really need:
- Find networks and communities related to my future needs
- Know mechanisms used to seek conversations in these networks and communities
- Build enough connection into networks and communities to be ready to leverage
- Be able to quickly and with minimal effort seek conversation in appropriate networks and communities.
The top two slam dunk answers here are:
- Various learning communities
Introduction to Social Networking
- Introduction to Social Networking
- Six Steps to a Remarkably Powerful Network
- Weave Smarter Networks with LinkedIn
- How to Grow a Facebook Network
- Join a Ning community
There's an acronym that everyone should know - RTFM. It stands for Read the Friggin Manual. It's a common response to stupid questions posted in certain communities. To me its a reminder that before you ever seek a conversation you should have done your homework.
Your homework is:
- Search the web - save related content
- Search the community / network for prior discussion - save related
- Maybe ask someone you know already for a reality check
I've searched on the web and in this community for information on X and I found A, B, C.You are showing that you've done your homework. Your question will be much more interesting. You are providing value via the question with the appropriate links. And this form of inquiry gets much better response.
But I am not finding Y, I'd like to find people who can help.
I'm concluding Z, but I'd like to talk to people who have done this.
You will notice that in this template question, I am asking for a conversation. In some cases, I will change it to ask for written responses.
There's quite a bit about the use of LinkedIn for this purpose, so rather than reciting it here, please go check out:
- My LinkedIn Open Connection Approach
- LinkedIn Facebook Twitter - Connection Styles
- LinkedIn for Finding Expertise
- Searching for Expertise - LinkedIn Answers
- Tips on using LinkedIn
- 10 Ways to Use LinkedIn
- Make Your LinkedIn Profile Work for You
- Write Your LinkedIn Profile for Your Future
- Seeking conversation directly - LinkedIn for Finding Expertise
- Asking questions to get written answers and to seek conversation - Searching for Expertise - LinkedIn Answers. Note: I often try to connect with people who provide answers directly (via Skype or phone) to discuss in more detail.
- Having discussions via groups - which acts much like questions and I do the same thing.
If you've never approached a few people for a conversation on a topic via LinkedIn, then you should make that happen within the next month.
The key here is to have ready access to a variety of communities. Take a look at the Learning Communities List.
Patti Anklam has a series on living in a network age:
- Seven Leaders Lessons
- Six myths
- Five purposes
- Four design facets
- Three network tools
- Two network sources
- One network lens
High-performing people tend to have stronger, more intentional networks.Other Related Tools and Methods
Other Posts in the Series