The consequence of a dynamic environment is the need to know it all, or at least the perceived need to know more than anyone else. That is what makes one consultant shine over all the others – a perception that our knowledge is greater than that of our competition. Most often the reality is that our ability to adapt and learn quickly and effectively is of much greater importance than our already contained knowledge.
What do you do when you don’t know? How do you sell yourself as an expert when your eyes have never seen, hands have never touched the technology? In IT, the landscape is constantly evolving. Resting on your laurels is a surefire way to fall to the bottom of the slag heap. Vendors also feel the pressure to constantly evolve. This constant flow of changes means the technologist’s job is not only to support what is there but to know what is coming and how to support it before your client even asks.
When presented with a need to obtain rapid knowledge of a technology, I tend to follow a few guiding principals that ensure the material is not only learned but retained.
1. Understand the Ultimate Goal of the Technology
If the product is a new version of something you already know, what was the need addressed with the change? If the technology is new to you, what does it hope to accomplish in making your or your clients’ lives easier? I mean, that is the point of technology – to make our lives easier, right?
2. Use the EDGE
My son is a Boy Scout. They utilize a teaching and learning method called EDGE. EDGE stands for Explain, Demonstrate, Guide, Enable. Using this method incorporates all learning styles into a single flow of information gathering.
- Explain: Have the information explained to you so you understand what you will be doing. Again, what is the goal of learning this technology? Ask tons of questions. You will never know if you don’t ask.
- Demonstrate: Learn how to use the technology. Read white papers, watch videos, get your hands dirty on a test system. Most vendors provide great training materials for their products; use them!
- Guide: Show someone else how to use the technology. Personally, I cannot fully grasp a technology by just reading and watching videos. I need to demonstrate the product to someone to ensure I know it well enough to explain everything needed to my clients.
- Enable: Time to shine! If you are a trainer, now is when you would set your little ducklings free to tackle the world. If you are a learner, now you should have the skills necessary to talk with your client about the technology.
3. Don’t Stop Learning or Doing!
Nothing erodes faster than an idle mind. Unused skills become unknown skills. You must not only stay on the forefront of the product’s evolution, but you must also use your newly acquired skills to retain the EDGE you worked so hard to hone.
Obviously, learning styles are as personal as pizza topping preferences. This method works for me. It works for my 11-year-old son. While, in the end, I may not be the MOST knowledgeable about a topic, using this path helps me feel confident when putting my self on the line as an expert. By having a solid foundation, I can build confidence in my client that they have placed their trust in the right consultant.