Developing An ‘Outside In’ Perspective
This post is the second in a series about my working life
The phrase ‘Outside In’ is all the rage in my company at the moment, but it’s been my approach for many years. About 10 years ago I realised that there are thousands of people at work who know much more than I do about what’s happening Inside the company. I work 16 hours a week, they work 60, they have the benefit of hundreds of emails, back to back conference calls and broad professional networks. If I was going to have any impact at work then I would have to do something that these people couldn’t do as easily:
- Think differently
- Absorb and analyse and apply insights from outside the company
- Avoid group think
I already knew that I thought differently to most people, I’m constantly being told that I have a unique perspective, that I open people’s eyes etc. So I knew that I didn’t need to put too much emphasis on this area. I didn’t neglect it though I read widely, studied innovation, listened to podcasts and books by innovators, entrepreneurs and journalists.
My biggest area of investment was developing an outside in view of the world. This meant a three step process:
- First gathering information about what was happening in my industry, what our vendors were doing, what was happening in tangential industries and what was happening in research and development.
- Second thinking deeply about this, looking for trends, connections and opportunities
- Third applying this analysis to benefit my customers and my employer directly, which meant seeing the relevance before others did, identifying opportunities and avoiding hype
One big benefit of working with the world outside my employer was that I got to use best of breed discovery, analysis and personal knowledge management information sources and tools. This greatly improved my productivity, compared to working inside with company information and tools.
This left avoiding group think, which rapidly develops in large enterprises. This was fairly easy, I just neglected company organised conferences, vendor briefings and internal knowledge bases. I knew that since dozens of people that I worked with were immersed in these anything relevant would quickly get to me via word of mouth (not much did).
The final part of this approach worth mentioning is that I invest quite a lot of time sharing my outside view, so that others can more efficiently analyse it themselves. I do this through my @steveisreading and @steveiswriting twitter accounts and shared Evernote notebooks.
The picture today is of Filey beach in the early morning, unfortunately I didn’t see a seal pup like I did last time I was here in October!