Mine the net for insight

Sep 25, 2014 | Better Writing

Once upon a time, there was no net. Back then I used to spend two full days every month at the University of California Berkeley’s business library. I would review the tables of contents of a hundred or so publications. Then I would copy relevant articles to read later.

Today that job gets done in a couple of minutes a day. I find more information more easily than I ever could back in the day, and I don’t have to carry rolls of quarters for the copy machine. That’s the good news.

Search, but verify

The net makes it easy to find things. It also makes it easy to post things. That means that many of the things you find so easily are suspect.

There’s an awful lot of misinformation out there. In my library-haunting days, the challenge was to find helpful information. Today, finding information is easy, but you have to spend time making sure it’s credible.

You have to dig to make sure you’ve got the facts. That goes double, or maybe triple, for something that “everyone knows.” We learned that lesson when we wanted to use the story of how Chivas Regal’s increase in price affected their unit sales.

Source first, facts second

Find credible sources first. Once you’ve found a source that’s good, start mining it for information. Doing things in that order will save you an awful lot of time making sure that information you’ve found is from a credible source.

Follow the links

For me, the best feature of the web is the links. They let you go from a general query to a specific source with a few clicks of the mouse. Follow the links on almost any business topic and you’ll find an academic center, college faculty member, or well-known expert.

Stories that add value to your writing

There are two kinds of stories that will make your writing stand out. Tell stories from your own experience, ones that only you can tell. And master the art of finding great business stories.

If you want to get results that others don’t …

you have to do the work that others won’t. Take the time and make the effort to curate great stories, stay on top of relevant literature, and run the truth to ground. Even with the web, excellence takes work.