The internet is a wonderful thing. It’s the only place I know that you can find out important information like how to fix your computer, hurricane paths and preparedness tips, world events, and the also interestingly unimportant things like why men have nipples and facts like how often sloths poop (once a week in case you’re interested, and it takes them 24 hours to get down from the tree, poop, and climb back up). Anyhow, clearly I’ve spent a lot of time answering those questions that everyone asks but nobody ever actually takes time to find out. I’ve looked up everything from where the phrase “raining cats and dogs” comes from to “pee like a race horse”— my three year old asked me what both of those meant, and I realized I used the phrases, knew what they meant, but didn’t know why they meant that. It’s amazing what Google has taught me. I’ve learned skills such as the technically correct way to boil an egg, how to duplicate my favorite restaurant recipes at home, and send my husband a video on how to sew on his own buttons (delegation at its best!).
This somewhat random search for more and more knowledge is not just a time suck or mind melting activity. I haven’t replaced couch potatoing while watching TV with electronic surfing. Instead the time I spend on the internet researching the inane and connecting with the world allows me to improve my career abilities.
Web surfing is a vital skill for survival in the workforce. I truly think my children will not specialize in a field such as English or American History but in information collection, analysis, and synthesis. The “knowledge athletes” of the future will be those folks who haven’t learned everything they need to do their job in college but who have learned how to learn. To me, a project manager is a first step toward this new role of the knowledge athlete (and which one of us doesn’t want a cool job title like that?).
A project manager doesn’t go to college to study a particular project and focus on that the rest of our careers. We learn each project through research, data mining, information synthesis, and analysis (fancy ways to say we read stuff, talk to people, and think about what we’ve learned). Our job is to become the temporary expert on our current project and then move on. We don’t repeat the same project day after day but must continue to grow our knowledge base as we’re handed new projects to manage and new teams to form, develop, and mange. We have the need to quickly find facts, relay them, and then move on to the next step. Our abilities have to be agile, flexible, and constantly adapting to the input we receive. Like a great search engine, we have to quickly analyze what’s being requested, find the right information, and present it back in a clear and concise manner. Building our skills in web surfing is an excellent way to hone our abilities to develop rapid expertise in any topic. The project management methodologies may stay consistent, but what we are applying them to is different each and every time, and finding the information to quickly reach expertise is critical to our project success.
So the next time you are reading the latest ESPN sports page when your boss walks by, explain how you are not wasting time web surfing but building your skills in searching and synthesizing information. Search on my friends…
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