In his book The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell refers to people he calls "influentials," who are unusually informed, persuasive, or well connected. Although Gladwell is concentrating on social epidemics, the definition of an influential hit a chord with me as I thought how that phrase aptly describes an information professional.
If we cannot be unusually informed within our organizations, we might as well give up, or at least say goodbye to career advancement. Looking at definitions of "unusually," I came across words like remarkably, exceptionally, and extraordinarily, which, to me, are just extensions of the word "very."
The definitions that I preferred in this context are "not ordinarily" or "atypically." If we are going to be noticed and appreciated, of course, we have to be "very" informed, but to be remembered by the people who matter in our organizations and seen to be truly valuable, we need to find those atypical or out-of-the-ordinary nuggets of information. We have so many people now who are capable of finding information adequate for their needs that we have to find the bit that hits you between the eyes and says, "That's an amazing idea, why can't we do it?"
Okay, I hear you say, "And how do I find time for that?" I do not have enough time to deal with the day-to-day requirements of my job, let alone to go gold digging. And what am I looking for?
The true answer is, I don't know. It is quite possible that you won't be the person who sees the true potential of the information shared, but being the catalyst is fine. I refer you to Stephen Abram's "Info Tech" column in the February issue of Information Outlook, in which he suggests that you set aside 15 minutes a day to play with new Web sites and services, and learn about new technologies. Use some of this time to forward links that you think might interest colleagues and management even if they do not appear to have any obvious relevance to your business.
As a caveat, I suggest that you explain why you are sending the links so that the recipient does not get into the delete mode. Comments like "Interesting in light of what we were talking about last month," or "Amazing new concept or technology," will help to avoid the recipient's wondering why on earth you sent the link. I personally enjoy receiving this sort of information, but some people view it as spam, unless they receive a well-researched report about why some new...