Sunday, August 31, 2008

grasping for a strategy

I attended the Illinois Institute of Technology Entrepreneur Center's monthly mixer in oreder to learn more about Threadless. Of course, I had forgotten that the Center brings the organization in but does not require any type of presentation. That worked out well.
I had the opportunity to meet someone who is in the product development business. We spoke about learning strategy and also a little about knowledge management.

I will do my best to repiece together the conversation.

Imagine that you are two weeks on the job and an emergency arises and your boss asks you to put something together on a topic you really don't have a handle on. There is of course a limit to how many questions you can redirect to your boss. You want to be able to assure your boss of that their decision to hire you was wise, and yet you don't feel wise enough to perform the task. You need more information and you have not yet met anyone in the company and barely have a good handle on what the various departments do let alone who in the organization would be helpful without exposing your ignorance.
In short, you need a network and you need information stat.

Scenario 1, you call your old network and find out what they know and lean heavily on them for information and links to resources and put together a frame that still doesn't have the imprint of an insider's perspective. This might be suitable, but the emergency involves an area of great sensitivity and it is not something that should come to light outside the organization. This greatly limits your ability to share enough information to others to really help you.

Scenario 2, the new organization has an internal online social network that you have not yet mastered. You decide that there's no time to waste and begin the process of learning who's who and their areas of expertise. you make lunch dates and set up a series of coffee meetings on the ruse of merely wanting to get to know them and see how you in your new role might be able to help them in their role etc.

After a few days, your boss has heard a report from one of his peers that you have become quite the social butterly and wonders what the hell is going on. They are old school and have been with the company for over a decade, are well connected and have yet to understand the new online network and in fact blew off the requisite training a few months back. He confronts you.

I'm not sure I like either scenario but it certainly does outline some of the ongoing barriers to infromation sharing both internally and also when leaning on outside expertise.

Is this familiar?
what are the right strategies for this person, and how should the firm support that strategy?
Please share your reactions and thoughts.

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