“Free, free, free—Knowledge. Bring you own containers,” so reads a poster hanging on a wall in Jaime Escalante’s classroom (Escalante’s life was portrayed in the movie Stand and Deliver). Although some of the information we need to be successful is not free, what’s so amazing in today’s society is how much information is out there, something to the tune of doubling every 18 months.
Knowledge flows so quickly, equally dramatically as well as undramatically, that it is there for the gathering. It seems everyone is willing—or appears to be willing—to share his or her knowledge with us.
Like baby birds in a nest, sometimes all we have to do is open our mouths (our personal containers), and knowledge plops in almost effortlessly and faster than we are able to digest it. Knowledge is prolific, and intriguing questions emerge from the flow:
How are we dealing with the information?
Is it overwhelming us?
Are we ignoring it?
Are we taking advantage of it?
I believe the latter question is of grave consequence to each of us. Taking advantage of this new information will enlighten us and help us become more productive and successful in the marketplace. Consider the following five areas of “filling your containers”:
1. Research what is happening in your market place/product area. In every business sector, someone is researching something for somebody to gain, hopefully, the market edge. Of course, you have to ask yourself: Do the research results parallel my own market analysis or do I need to do one myself? Or do I need more training in certain aspects of the business? Keeping current with the research is, at best, difficult to do, even if you have someone working full time just keeping tabs on the pulse of the information. Nonetheless, knowing what is going on in your market and how you will deal with it is imperative to your future survival.
2. Capture the newest and best information. While there is a surging flow of information, some of it may not be pertinent to you and your market. After you have identified the sources for the information, then decide the most appropriate information for you. Having a “jaundiced eye” will keep you from pursuing information not relevant to your mission. Being on the “cutting edge” is always nice, especially if you want to be ahead of the game.
3. Implement the new information. You have done the research. You know the best information possible. You send your employees or yourself to be trained in the new information. Now is the time to implement the new information/ techniques and see if all of your research will pay off. Implementation may be the scariest part although you should be moderately confident you have done your homework.
4. Assess how the information works. Most companies are constantly assessing and reassessing the process of how they do a particular component of their business. They are objective enough to understand when something does not work and either dumping the “container of information” altogether or readjusting the information to fit their current operation. Whatever the case may be, make sure you are striving for continuous improvement.
5. Continue the cycle. Part of any cycle is continuously running through the process and completing it all over again and monitoring it at every step. A continuous effort in capturing the best information from the most appropriate sources; converting that information to tangible, concrete answers for your business; continually assessing to see what impact the information had on your company, both short term and long term; and starting the process all over again—all these constitute a visionary yet practical process of remaining competitive.
If all else fails, remember Jaime Escalante and always keep an open container with you. You will never know when you will need to lean over and pluck some new tidbit of information from the roaring river of data. Don’t worry if you fall in. As you dry out, you will have time to reflect your future. Good luck filling those containers.