In a consulting world, the first person to get the information control the cards. It is the fine line between having business or not. Staying informed is an art and this is how to master the art.
10 years ago when I was doing my undergraduate program my friends used to call me “Senator”. I was the President of the student's organization and I had information on everything happening in our community. I was able to anticipate things before they happen and plan ahead. My most memorable achievement was when I was able to win an election of 600 people while having only 12 people on my side. That is a story for another day. Over time I have been practicing this great skill of “Staying Informed” and teach it to my colleagues and team member. This is how you do it.
Create Trust Through Support
People share information with people they trust. Trust is not cheap you have to earn it. You earn trust by supporting people and helping them during the time of great need. When everyone is running away and they have no one to turn to. Remember, a gentleman always remembers a favor. When people having nothing to pay you back they pay you with information. Invest time to build relationships and support people when in need. You will always be informed about the opportunities and dangers coming to your side.
Listen, take your time to say no.
We always rush to say no. I don’t want to do this. Take your time to say no, gather as much information as possible of what you are asked to do. Learn about the intention of those who want you to do it and the outcome of the task. Learn the process and ask as many questions as possible. Always remember there is no unuseful information. What is not useful today will be useful tomorrow in a different circumstance. Try to connect the dots, where is the source of information, and who shared with who and who can easily provide you with the details you need. Always search for the weak link by pretending you know nothing.
Screen for wastes and traps
Sometimes potentially you are getting trapped and someone is sharing with you wrong information to lead you in the wrong direction. Be careful with cheap and quick information always is a waste or a trap. Sometimes people provide you with information because they are looking for more valuable information from you. Know how much your information worth. Make it a tendency to gather information from multiple sources that link you to the core source. Sometimes don’t even trust the core source. The definition of “core” varies depending on who owns the information, why they own it, what time they own it, and how valuable it is.
Network, always show up
The information doesn’t come to you, you follow the information. Spend time with people who own the information. Talk less listen more. It is common when people go to networking events they chase people of influence awkwardly asking for business cards and pitching their projects or initiatives. They ignore people who own the information who might be carrying bags of the so-called “people of influence”. Always stay at the vantage point and look for information owners form and relationships with them. Understand their KPIs and their pain points. Provide them with information they need. They will give you the details you are looking for. Just be careful where you show up. Sometimes it is good to send someone else to gather information on your behalf if you can. Just make sure they understand the game.
Build Allies and Track Your Enemies
Nobody wins alone, build strong relationships based on trust and value exchange. Assess your areas of strengths and capitalize on them and assess your areas of weakness and get someone to complement you. Don’t worry about the competition but always care about the moves of your potential competitor. Don’t bring the war to them until they start one. Make sure when they lose they are the ones to blame. You can only do this by making sure you are always informed on their next moves. Trust and respect people within their teams and they will give you the information you need even without asking. Human being values those who value them.
Share and seek information
You don’t get information if you don’t share information. The intelligence community knows this better. People who own the information will come to you with information knowing you have information. When you don’t have the information you become irrelevant. Be careful with breakfast meetings, free lunches, cocktail parties, etc. If you go there to eat and drink, my friend you are doomed. That is where people exchange valuable information. I usually make jokes with my team about eating in those kinds of occasions. I tell them to open your eyes and your ears, not your mouth. Unless when it is extremely necessary.
Let me end here today. Enjoy the process. Please don’t try this at home lol