Magazine article Online

Can You Pivot?

Magazine article Online

Can You Pivot?

Article excerpt

If you have ever played basketball, you know about the importance of pivoting. If your path is suddenly blocked, you make a quick switch and go in another direction. If it were me, I would wind up running into my opponent, as my tendency is to just keep doing what I'm already doing. In the online world, I can easily spend too much time trying to get information from a source that I think must have what I need, instead of looking for a more appropriate or fruitful source.

Marydee Ojala, ONLINE's editor and program planner for WebSearch University (WSU; www.websearchu.com), challenged me to develop a session for WSU on how to pivot during a research project. That forced me to pay attention to how I spent my time researching--and I learned some new techniques for staying both focused and flexible.

Since my instinct is to keep pounding away until I exhaust myself, the first thing I do now is set myself a time budget. Of course, as an independent info pro, successfully budgeting my time is an essential part of a profitable business. But everyone who provides research services, and doesn't have unlimited time, needs to set themselves some limits so that they stop and recognize the opportunities to pivot.

My "budget" enables me to spend what I think is an appropriate amount of time on each aspect of the research. In addition to the hands-on research--the part that most of us enjoy the most--I set aside time for my initial preparation work. This entails a quick search for the low-hanging fruit, a review of what I have and deciding where I need to turn next, another round of research and pivoting if necessary, time to provide a value-added WOW factor, and time to write up the results.

While every project is different, I never expect to spend more than half my time actually doing the research. I spend the rest of my time reviewing my research options and resources, looking over what I've found so far, figuring out what approach to take next, and pulling all that I have found together into a final report. I have built into the research process the assumption that I will periodically stop, look around, and take a deep breath to evaluate where I am. "How likely is it that I'll find much more here? Do I have enough time left to dig deeper into the premium databases?"

This approach also helps me recognize unexpected avenues of research. Perhaps my client was working from the assumption that his or her major competitors were familiar players, and my research unearthed mention of a disruptive technology that would make my client's product obsolete. …

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