Thinking about indexing and connecting the dots

Because of my presentations and my “Enterprise 2.0 evangelist” description in our corporate directory, people e-mail me to find out about Web 2.0-related resources. I usually don’t have the experience or the materials they’re looking for, but I can often refer them to someone who does.

If I’ve seen documents matching their interests (usually through people’s shared files and on wikis), I point them to those documents directly. If I don’t know of any relevant resources, I direct people to the large Web 2.0 for Business community, sending them a link to my tips for asking communities for help as well. I also help by posting the help request for them, if they are unsure about posting in communities, and by following up through e-mail if they don’t get enough response.

W- and I often talk about “indexing” resources, like the way a search engine indexes web pages. When we go to a new store and we have some time, we usually walk the aisles. We aren’t planning to buy anything, but we want to get a sense of what’s out there.

I index information as well. I’ll read a lot of things that may not be immediately useful because I may be able to connect the dots later on. I slurp in computer help files, lists of available software, nonfiction books, other people’s blogs, and so on. I don’t remember all of it, but I usually remember enough to point people in the right direction.

If lots of people ask me similar things, I build better pathways. I bookmark resources that I refer people to so that I can find things faster next time. If I frequently refer to those bookmarks, I might create a wiki page or blog post that organizes information better. If I find myself connecting dots even more frequently, I document what I know and push that out into the community. That way, I focus my resources on things that are frequently used.

My role takes advantage of this strength, which the Strengths Finder book describes as the strength of Input. I create and organize enablement material, reach out to subject-matter experts, and help people answer all kinds of questions. I help other consultants find material and people for workshops, and I occasionally facilitate workshops as well. Because I can pull examples and ideas out of my collection, it’s easy for me to respond to people’s questions or build on people’s thoughts.

There are a number of ways I can get better at this:

  • I can cast a wider net when learning about resources. For example, I read almost all the blog posts inside IBM when the volume was still manageable. Now that the internal blogging platform is too lively to watch, I can use filters to focus on topics I care about. I can also look at other places like shared files and profile updates.
  • I can keep track of mavens and connectors in other areas. Being able to go to other people to learn more about their specialties saves me a lot of time and helps us all create more value. If I can figure out who’s passionate about what, that helps us optimize the network.
  • I can braindump more, and I can organize those thoughts more effectively. The more I write down and share, the more efficiently I can look things up again, and the more people can help themselves.

I really like exercising this strength at IBM. There are so many resources and so many talented people around the organization. Because it’s such a large company, people can’t hold the entire network in their head or remember where all the assets are. There’s also a lot of infrastructure that helps us connect people, with a culture of strong communities and emerging tools for social networking.

So that’s one of the things that I get to do at work, how I do it, and how I can do it better. =)