Sticking to the task in hand

“Attention!  Attention!  I just love attention!” says Lucy in the Peanuts cartoons, and that is just what a neat little article on ZDNet, Focusing attention is the new work ethic suggests we should do.

I think this one caught my eye because it is one of the most important requirements for performing an effective search.   A substantial search request, such as a request for market data, major players, manufacturing processes and recent developments demands a high level of attention,  which means ignoring, for a while, all the incoming alerts and emails.  To go even further, I often tend to role-play that it is me who needs the information, rather than the third party I’m working for.  I especially tend to adopt this approach for the more tricky searches so that I get a sense of  ownership for what I’m looking for, but as always it does require a clear understanding of what the search is about and thus what I’m trying to find.

When I’m carrying out prior-art patent searches I turn into the Evil Patent Crusher, whose aim is to squash the wonderful idea I’ve just been handed by finding patents that walk all over it with duplication, proving that it’s all been done already (sound of  evil laughter in the distance).  Of course, if I don’t find any infringing patents then I become the Hope Giver who goes back to the enquirer with a full run-down of the search, saying that it looks as if the idea could be in with a chance and “good luck!”.

It’s also worth pointing out that allowing your mind to wander to your email inbox on a whim part way through a search is not the same as giving yourself a strategic breather at an organised point during the hunt.  A strategic breather can be quite refreshing and for me, is usually followed by a run-through the actual enquiry again to make sure that my searching hasn’t wandered off-topic and that I haven’t missed out any aspects of the search request.

Perhaps some people would raise an eyebrow at the suggestion that I treat my work as a game.  How disruptive!  But using a bit of imagination can go a long way and only seems to add to the effectiveness of my searching as well as adding a bit of entertainment along the way.

How about you?

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One Response to Sticking to the task in hand

  1. Hi Sarah,

    Thanks for these insights into effective searching. Perhaps you would have some thoughts on whether searching skills should be a core part of the education curriculum and, if so, how one should balance this with specific knowledge (i.e. learning about the shoulders of giants on whom it is safe and appropriate to stand).

    On this particular posting, you describe, in other words, the Disney creative strategy (to take one example) where you suspend the Critic’s and the Realist’s view and let the Dreamer roam around freely. Then swap roles. (Robert Dilts modelled this in his NLP work).

    Keep up the good and stimulating work!


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