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Where's your radar pointing?

We all have our own radar systems. We read certain web sites, and perhaps magazines and newspapers, and we watch certain television programmes, or perhaps listen to certain podcasts or radio shows. From these sources, we find out what's new, or what might affect our life and our work, and we use that knowledge to inform our decisions.

But there's a problem: If your radar is pointing in the same direction as everyone else, you will simply absorb the same information as everyone else. That's useful, but it's not giving you any advantage. You don't have anything more to go on.

Following, filtering and failure

I follow sites like B2B Marketing because it focuses on, and curates news and opinion, on the topics important to my work. And I also find useful information from LinkedIn Groups and Quora, The Next Web and Social Media Today. And many others. I consider that to ignore the knowledge in these places would be foolish. But I don't have time for all of it, even with my Twitter lists, my search filters and my RSS feeds and my Google Alerts and my Evernote and my Streak, because there are only 24 hours in each day. And I know the filtering is also flawed, because it's tying that radar to an even narrower horizon. And I can't attend interesting events because they clash with other commitments. So I know I miss out on what will be really useful knowledge. But to paraphrase Donald Rumsfeld, we don't know what we don't know. We can't see the next Black Swan coming.

So what will happen if you spin your radar around, and diversify your points of reference? If you read things that are not really in your area? If you listen to people whose work may be incidental to, or totally different to your work? If you follow people on Twitter who you consider that you normally disagree with, or whose interests are very different from your own? If you select topics from StumbleUpon that are peripheral to your work or interests? If you look at how things works in Rio and in Moscow, or decide to experiment with Chime?

What will happen is that you will discover something that few others have discovered. It may take years, or it may happen in the next fifteen minutes, but you will have a special insight that few have had. You'll have knowledge that most of your colleagues, competitors, and contemporaries do not have.

Did you notice the 'co' in colleagues, competitors and contemporaries? It's there because these words all signify something common. Common knowledge. Common ideas. Common understanding. All useful, but nothing special. Practical, but not unique.

Be uncommon. Discover new insights. Point your radar somewhere else. Now.