Stage 3.3  Acquisition Tools

The Internet Tools

Using the Internet (wisely and economically)

At present time, the internet is almost always the first stop, and probably ought to be. There are many caveats, however. The successful change agent needs to be an intelligent internet explorer. Consider the following.

What’s right with internet search engines? Fast, Vast, & Easy

  • Fast: at the fingertips, any place, any time, 24-7.
  • Vast- every conceivable topic is covered
  • Easy to use, superficially at least
  • Almost everybody uses it as an information highway
  • Connects to everything the change agent may need: people, financial sources, ideas, facts, stories, pictures, film, lectures, discussions, dialogs
  • There is always a chance that you will find exactly what you are looking for!

 What’s wrong with them?

  • Validity: scientifically validated knowledge may be there in some cases but how do we know? What are the signs that indicate credibility?
    • Statistics: the gold standard
    • Testimonials from credible witnesses: why are they credible?

  • Knowledge, surmise, conjecture, half-truths, and even lies may all be lumped in together. There is no referee.

  • They are all competing for your attention, your interest, and your acceptance of what they are offering or selling
  • It is easy to be misled. We may get some of the truth, but rarely the whole truth, and even more rarely nothing but the truth
  • There are numerous internet players out there whose entire job is to mislead, even guiding users in directions opposite from where they intended  to go.
  • If there is anything controversial or political about your change project, you can count on there being many web sites that are deliberately designed to bias the searcher in one direction or another.
  • Always keep in mind that the most valuable information is not always given away free. If the offeror seems to have exactly what we are looking for, it may well be worth the cost of walking through that pay wall, but how do we know what is worth paying for even if we have the money?

Specific Internet Tools

Search Engines
Within the Internet there has mushroomed up any number of more specialized tools, starting with the key-word dependent “Search Engines” such as Google, Bing, Yahoo Search, Ask, and Aol Search, create portals to acquiring information. 

Social Networking
Sites such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Google Plus+, Instagram, and Tumblr connect individuals and create  opportunities to interact and exchange information. 

Blogs open doors to electronic forums that can be content specific.  The range of connectivity to resources, information, data, and people is wide and deep. 

Subject Specific Database
Library gateways and subject specific databases are useful for specific links, multimedia files, archives, mailing lists or special topics.

Have a Plan for Using the Internet Tools

1. Define the dimensions of the problem or situation with key words.

  • Write them down.
  • Brainstorm with the change team or key members of the client system
  • Use specific and unique, i.e., Keywords that identify the concept
  • Put important words first
  • Quotation marks narrow searches and are helpful
  • “AutoComplete”, allows the search engine to assist in selecting websites            Combine phrases with (+) and or  (-)sign to expand or limit a search
  • Note names that crop up associated with topics, especially names of                                             authors of recent textbooks or important reports or studies.

 2. Set aside specific amounts of time and resources to conduct search stage

  • Ration Search; set limits on time, topics, extent of collective involvement

3. Encourage Participation in Search

  • Delegate search tasks to members of change team
  • Discuss search strategy among members

4. Leave room for serendipity

  • Sometimes you may want to look for inspiration or stimulation, allowing you to refocus or to think outside the box
  • Strategies that are too narrowly focused may block fresh thinking

Tools Beyond the Internet 

Think of resources in several different terms:

  • Funds,
  • People (several types),
  • Ideas,
  • Documents,
  • Products,
  • Projects

Networks and Networking as Tools
For the Change Agent, “connecting the dots” and analyzing information is a challenge because of the shear mass of available information.  A necessary critical skill of the Change Agent is the ability to sort data and understand what information fits the problem and what should be ignored or bypassed.  Finding examples and case studies of successful implementation plans, and individuals who have expertise helps create the opportunity to facilitate solution findings.

The Internet can provide data, and lots of it.  The question for the Change Agent is when to “reach-out” beyond the digital to connect directly to individuals.  It is important to remember the different roles individuals play in the “Change Process.” Remember the key types:

  •  leaders,
  • key stakeholders,
  • good observers,
  • advocates,
  • skeptics,
  • typical users, and
  • observers.

Each will provide a unique perspective and viewpoint.  

When making connections, it is also important to keep in mind the complex web of social links from your Stage 1 RELATE analysis.   These relationships are not only beneficial to your client but also to the individual you are talking with.   This web is your main avenue you to deeper understanding, providing critical information for solving problems and finding workable solutions.

Which People Are Likely to be the most valuable connections?

  • Someone who has done something similar to what you are thinking of doing
  • Someone who has evaluated such a project or product
  • Someone who has experienced something like this as an end user
  • Someone who is an acknowledged expert, e.g. author of textbook on topic

Live Interviews

There is nothing quite like arranging an extended interview with someone who has had some experience with what you are planning to do.  There are four basic types, each with special advantages and cautions.

  •  Advocates: It is good to talk to some people who are enthusiastic about doing this sort of thing. They can provide some of the energy that comes from high hopes and they can tell you a lot about their experience, intentionally and sometimes unintentionally.  You need to get a good idea of the upsides and the potential rewards from getting involved.
  • Skeptics: You also need to be aware of the potential downsides of implementing any particular change project, such as costs, difficulties in implementation, training, explaining what you are trying to do. You also need to be aware of the risks of project rejection or failure at any place along the road to full implementation.
  • Typical Users: If at all possible, it is good to get a view of the project from the lowest levels, the people who are most directly involved in implementation or the users or customers for whom the innovation is presumed to be a benefit. It is not easy to do this because there is no easy way to identify the most representative user. Nevertheless, incidental contacts with users more or less at random can yield valuable insights.  Site visits, as discussed below, can be a gateway to such opportunities.
  • Neutral Observers: Probably this is the most useful category except for one thing: how do we know who is really “neutral.”

On Site Visits (to View and Experience the Innovation in a Real Natural Setting)
The ability to actually view an implemented innovation can also provide critical information.  The “living” case study can broaden the Change Agent’s understanding and reveal many of the problems of implementing a complex innovation project.  It can help identify people, processes and issues of certain solutions, and provide a possible roadmap to implementation.