What’s On Your Shelves?

Most organizations have more research and information available than they ever effectively use. When I start a project with new clients, I always ask for any relevant background information they may have. What I find can be surprising.

Why do organizations forget the research gems and great insights they have on their shelves or in their electronic files? Sometimes the people change and new people simply don’t realize the organization has tried to answer these questions before. Some people believe organizations don’t know what they know and what they need is better knowledge management.

What they might need is simply a fresh look and perspective.

When I review background information, I am searching for patterns that have meaning. The meaning may come from the context for my search, the question I am trying to answer, or from my perspective as a futurist as I compare trends and issues across organizations and sectors. Or the meaning may come from my ability to reflect and synthesize.

I may have developed a particular talent for discovering these gems in an organization’s corporate knowledge bin, but I believe more people could learn to do this if they tried.

First, adopt the open mind of a newcomer. Set aside your assumptions, history and old explanations. Read the information like a new employee or consultant. What picture of the organization emerges from your research?

Second, educate yourself about key drivers of change for organizations like yours. Read futures scans, follow trends and issues, and stay current on new developments. Bring this external perspective to your review of internal research. Do you see similar signs of change?

Third, identify your strategic issues and opportunities. Begin every strategic planning process or new initiative with this baseline analysis. Where does your organization have an opportunity to lead? What conditions and capabilities will be required?

Fourth, take the time to reflect on what you have learned. Better yet, draw others into a strategic conversation about what you have discovered. Reflection and dialogue will give you much more than a quick answer to your immediate problem. Reflection and dialogue reveal opportunities and solutions that can take you to the next level.

What’s on your shelves may be surprising if you know how to look.