Are You in the Flow: Reaching Your Flowing Point
By John-Paul Hatala, Ph.D.
Everyone everywhere knows at least one or two people. Connections with others are made on a daily basis. The level of connectedness varies from situation to situation. For example: you’re in a shopping mall and you visit a store. You select a product, bring it to the counter and pay the clerk. During the transaction you may have had some small talk or simply said thank you. Whatever the interaction, a connection was made. What was the value of that connection? You could say that if it wasn’t for the connection, you would not have been able to purchase the product you required. But, if we were to look at this realistically, the connection made in the example above had little significance in your life.
Let’s take another example. You’re considering starting a small business and require information about financing. You go to the mall, visit a store, select a product and bring into the cashier. You engage in some small talk with the clerk and by coincidence you get on the topic of business and finance. The clerk turns out to be the owner of the store and shares with you how she was able to get the financing she required to start her business. In this example, a connection is made but instead of a casual interaction you gather some information that could potentially help you. You write down the individual’s name and ask her if it would be ok to contact her in the future for more information. This was a conscious attempt to gain new knowledge by adding a new person to your network; this contact could provide information that will help you come to a solution.
The two scenarios detailed above represent connections that are made every day by all of us. The first was simply a casual connection and a display of pleasantry that occurs throughout our lives. The second interaction provided a specific piece of information that could potentially assist someone in reaching a solution.
Depending on your circumstances and what you are trying to accomplish in your life, gathering information may occur at any time. Whether you are starting a new hobby or you are the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, the need to gather information is critical to success.
The more information a person can gather, the better the position they are in to make decisions that may positively affect their desired outcome. The next time you speak with someone you haven’t met before, try and find out something about them that could potentially help you. Consider asking them questions like:
- What do you do for a living?
- Do you have any children?
- What part of the city do you live in?
These questions could simply represent nothing more then making small talk. However, if I was looking for employment, the answer to “What do you do for a living?” may provide some information that could help me in my job search. If I was starting a daycare, the question “Do you have any children?” could help me determine if I have a potential client or provide me with an unbiased opinion for my market research. “What part of the city do you live in?” could provide information that could help determine whether this person could volunteer for a local Boy Scout troop. Gathering information happens all the time and in every situation as long as you are aware of your opportunities.
The concept of reaching your FlowingPoint is actually more of a destination than a process. When an individual has reached their FlowingPoint, they have maximized the number of contacts that can provide information leading to a solution. Basically, the more information an individual can gather that leads to a solution the greater the likelihood of them becoming successful.
Getting in the flow of information is critical for every aspect of life. If you’re a manager of a department in a major corporation, knowing what is going on from an organizational perspective is critical to successfully conducting your job. If you’re not in the flow of information, the likelihood of working at 100% is drastically reduced. The process of receiving information is multifaceted. You first have to recognize where potential information can come from. Second, when information is available, you need to know what to do with it. Third, once you understand what to do with the information, you need to use it to achieve your desired results.
Many people take for granted the connections they make on a regular basis and are not aware of the flow of information. How many times have you been told, “You should contact so–and-so, they’d be able to help you out” and then not followed through. A piece of information is provided and we are unable to capitalize on it. Not because we don’t want to, but in most cases because we don’t know how.
Let’s look at the flow of information a little bit closer. You’ve just received a referral from someone you don’t know. This is not an unusual thing. You go to many networking meetings and receive this type of information all the time. When you first started to network, you diligently followed up on every lead. Now that you’re a more experienced networker, you’ve become more discerning about the referrals presented to you. If the value of leads is not immediately apparent you tend to pass them off as nothing more than idle conversation. You do this because you just don’t have the time to follow up with potential prospects that will not lead to anything. It’s happened before and you can’t waste the energy. Sound familiar?
In some cases it would be absolutely impossible to follow up with every piece of information presented to you. After all, there are only so many hours in a day. But, what if the most unlikely person could provide information that led to a unique solution in which you did business; even better yet, what if it led to a sale. You just never know.
If it was possible and time was unlimited, you would follow up on every piece of information. Of course, this is not always realistic. But what if you were able to develop skills that would help you determine what information is valuable at the right time and under the right circumstances. This would definitely provide you with greater opportunities to reach different solutions in order to become successful.
What if you could organize your connections in such a way that would allow you to defer information gathering until you actually required it? When you’ve reached your FlowingPoint the answers to these questions are fairly straight forward. The ability to organize information and maintain a constant flow occurs simultaneously with your efforts to succeed at whatever you do. Being in the right place at the right time is no longer a chance occurrence but an everyday affair. Your opportunity for getting in the flow of information that will help you automatically increases ten-fold when you’ve reached your FlowingPoint.
Dr. Hatala is currently an Assistant Professor at Louisiana State University in the School of Human Resource Education and Workforce Development, Baton Rouge. As a Canadian career practitioner, he holds the role of Change Management Adviser and Knowledge Management Adviser for Career Professionals of Canada. His academic research focuses on the transition towards re-employment, human resource development, social capital in the workplace, barriers to entrepreneurship and organizational development.