The other day I was enjoying a warm spring and decided to eat my lunch outside on one of the many public plazas in New York City.  Pigeons strutted around me waiting for a speck of food to drop.  As I was balancing my plate of chicken and rice, a pigeon dive-bombed my plate, sending half my lunch to the sidewalk … and into the beaks of his swarming cousins.

After my initial pissed-offed-ness, I marveled that this stupid little bird had learned a highly effective new behavior to gather food. It had adopted to its urban environment and surely was setting itself up to be the founding father of a race of hawk-like super pigeons.

It was a lesson that in any environment, those with the ability to adapt to changing conditions will win. I think with the frenzied rate of change we are now seeing on the social web, this will be an important lesson — and life skill — for marketers.

A hypothesis:  Personal “technological networking and adaptability” is going to be an increasingly important characteristic valued by corporate recruiters.  The ability to use the web to network, improve productivity, and find answers will be a highly-prized part of a personal skill portfolio.  In fact, there is some research to back it up

A few years ago, I was in a graduate leadership program at Carnegie Mellon University and took a class from a talented educator and author named Robert E. Kelly.  Dr. Kelly had just written a book called How to Be a Star at Work: 9 Breakthrough Strategies You Need to Succeed.   Honestly, I thought it was going to be one of those kick-your-feet-up, blow-off kind of classes, but it ended up being one of the most interesting sessions of the program.

We all know that certain people tend to rise to superstar level at work. They may not be smarter or harder working than others, but they have a certain “something” that seems to push them up the corporate ladder.

Dr. Kelly had a research grant to determine the factors that these high-fliers had in common. After all, if you could actually test for these factors, wouldn’t that have a powerful impact on corporate recruiting and training?  Turns out it wasn’t that simple, but after years of investigation he eventually found the magic formula.

According to Dr. Kelly’s research, one of those key characteristics of a corporate rock star is an ability to effectively network and find information quickly.  Let’s say you had two employees — Tom and Tammy — equally well-educated, enthusiastic and nattily-attired.  But Tammy had just one advantage — she knew how to use technology to rapidly find the people and resources she needed to accomplish a task while Tom picked up a phone and started calling people in the company directory. The research showed that Tom had no hope of ever catching up and the more complex the task, the further Tammy would outshine him.

It makes a lot of sense.

Dr. Kelly’s research seems to indicate that expert networking skills like an ability to navigate the social web can also be a crucial differentiator in your career.

So there.  Now you can explain to your spouse that all that time you’re wasting on Twitter is actually a career-advancement opportunity! You may be just 140 characters away from the tweet smell of success.

I would be interested to know … how are you seeing this play out in your own workplace and your own life?  And if you agree that this ability to adapt to technological change is important, how would you measure something like that?

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