What is your interest?
- You. In my present BizApps class, you look up what the big boys and girls think are the relevant issues to transform the assignment on CRM/ERP systems from something huge and impersonal to something of immediate and long-term relevance to you: what is your interest in CRM that the present text touches on lightly? Look for your career goals: what particular dimension of CRM moves you? Once you find the current issues, including examples and concepts as interest relevant professionals, then our much more limited case studies, methods, and exercises will prove more relevant, make more sense, and lead you to want to know more: once you want to know more, for your own good reasons, you will have more keys to understanding our assignments and the motivation to do them. Aim for that!
- Audience. We start high, because we ask the question of audience: who would we like to talk to and work with? If you are aiming for a top-level management position, whether in firms larger or small, your audience includes those top managers, so look for the conversations they are having, the journals they are reading, and imagine yourself preparing for your next interviews and where you want to know what they want to know so you will have something interesting to your interviewer to talk about (and give him good reasons to hire you).
- Relevance. These top managers are concerned with “the long view,” not simply day-to-day operations or some now fancy gadget, but strategic perspectives to insure that the firm will survive over the long term. They want to know how the game is played, are keen to understand what is new. For instance, check out this article from McKinsey, Adapting customer experience in the time of coronavirus, and tell me that this topic — this issue — is not especially interesting to us now and that the way they think about it is interesting, too!
- Issues. They look for larger things, like different ways of handling risk, large-scale changes in markets or finance, and how differently the competition is responding to new conditions, so that they look not just at their particular firm’s niche, but at how firms in other niche’s are innovating, rising and falling, etc. The important thing about issues is that they are not simply facts, like you present with your standard reports and where you pretend to be an expert, but they are current problems that do not admit of any easy remedy, that people have different evidence, argument, interests, and opinions, such that once you become reasonably informed you invite your interviewers to share their thinking as if you were a peer. So, what you are looking for is “current trends YourTopic …,” as Google Search then knows exactly what you are looking for: what relevant professionals are talking about in your particular field: CRM, SCM, ERP, etc., using the abbreviations for the major fields and sub-fields (if this doesn’t work, you can spell out “customer relationship management xxx”, for example)
- The leading journals. Search engines work from the general to the particular. With general terms you get general results. With specific, and especially unique, terms you really do get Google Search to narrow things down. In our case, we want to narrow our topic search to the relevant journals, in our case, we start with the big four consulting firms plus maybe Harvard Business Review, Wharton, the Economist, etc. So, narrow your search by replacing “xxx” with “pwc”, “hbr”, “kpmg,” “mckinsey”, “the economist,” etc.
- Particular Audiences. To get an idea of how powerful Google is, explore how differently “risk” is defined, as you will find by clicking the five different dictionary links to the term on my Definitions page. You will see that, for general audiences, “risk” is defined in very general terms, but for business, and especially for those in the field of banking, insurance, and finance more generally, “risk” has a number of very specific meanings that business dictionaries address very carefully. Google includes a zillion dictionaries, but you narrow your search to relevent fields, by your careful choice of search terms, and especially, terms unique to a field such as “pwc”.
Data-Mining, or how Google works for you
From there you will want to know how Google Search works both in how it creates a searchable index and how search terms are used to sort through it. For that you do well to watch a couple of short videos.
- How Search Works explains how Google uses keywords when it sends out “spiders” to collect new web pages; determine context, meaning, and relevance; and creates an index that, when you plug in keywords, they select for relevance using Boolean operators, meaning, results which include “current issue” AND “your topic” AND 2018 AND xxx
- Google Parisian Love shows how this AND business works to narrow your topic, and also, how Google is using artificial intelligence, including what it knows about other people who have used these terms and refined them, to develop a better — in my mind completely fantastic — idea of what you are looking for. Also, on this topic, check out Google Auto Complete.
- Keywords. Every field has its own special issues, ways of approaching things, and terms that it uses; you’ll get nowhere looking for the “hotel industry,” because “hospitality industry” is the term professionals use.
- Correlations When reading a report from Deloitte, I found that “learning and development” was the section that interested me, that “reinventing HR” is the larger framework for understanding that, and associated with this topic are such specialized terms as “corporate cultures,” “engagement,” and so on down that list; similarly, when “labor markets” you will find talk of “factors,” and “causality,” and so an invitation to talk the talk that used by relevant professionals in your field
How to explore and organize a zillion results
- Survey. When you are starting off and surveying an issue, you are looking for things over which reasonable people disagree, such as the competing strategies companies within a given field are considering. a company in crisis might do well to consider, so before you dig down and explore one of them, list many choose among them, and note why you’ve chosen it: that way, you are better prepared to answer those who will challenge you, because you’ve reasoned through your choice
- Make their sub-heads your sub-heads. We are learning how to work with the Outline View because the web is organized as on great big outline and the “xxx” journals, and professional writing in general, are all organized as outlines — as you will see on my Outlining to Think page: open the 11 links you’ll find there and see that they have in common the logic of “tree structures”, a very special, powerful, and ubiquitous (everywhere) way of organizing data.
- List, then sort. The problem is managing the complexity of issues that at first you know little about, but will want to sort and prioritize so you might understanding your topic better, clarify your thought, and remember what you’ve done; to start, simply list the sub-heads, the review what you’ve listed by identifying things you know something about, those you might want to learn, and then bury the rest under a sub-head called “More”: in this way, you accommodate both scope and selection.
- Reading Strategically. This method invites you first to skim the article for its overall shape — identifying sections you think might be of most interest (and setting aside the rest) — then scanning the rest for keywords, listing and prioritizing, and only then, having reduced the long list to just a few of the presently most interesting items, reading intensively only those few, well-chosen ones; once you’ve done this you can always go back and revise.
How to think about it
- Look for some help. The absolute best way to think about your work at this point is to discuss it with a classmate, and especially someone who doesn’t know much about your topic and so will ask the most obvious questions: sometimes the most obvious questions are the best ones, because otherwise many of us tend to get lost in abstraction.
- Talk/Write. Make notes of your conversation, because then you’ll have feedback of what makes sense, where there are questions, and so feel you are doing ok, making some progresss, are making at least a little sense to someone else.
- Look for examples. Selecting any of the elements, look for examples, preferably some business that has tried to implement a thing and where you might find a discussion or case study — something concrete, and practical, which will help you remember the abstractions and be better able to discuss them.
- Follow the prompts you’ll find in ‘Steps for Better Thinking’. Many start off by writing up simple descriptions, but on your way to considering alternatives you’ll want to explore different contexts and perspectives: the “prompts” are a handy reference tool as they offer questions you might ask of your material to test their integrity, validity, relevance, and meaning: learn how to see any given thing from different perspectives.
- This is only possible by working carefully. If you leave this to the last minute, panic will set in and you’ll likely get not much further than wherever it was that you started, but if you schedule review of this material every couple of days, you’ll inevitably see things differently and have the time to summarize, ask more questions, look things up, and otherwise get to know your material better.