Evolving Culture: Evolving into Experts
Today we are going to share with you one the main secrets of our success. Interestingly, it has nothing to do with sales or marketing but everything to do with culture. More specifically, it is about fostering the right culture.
It's no secret that we try to be a fun and out-of-the-box company, but that's not what makes us so good at what we do. Our secret sauce is that we're a company of experts and that's because Evolve is built around a culture of learning.
The only way to be good at what we do is to constantly stay on top of industry trends which isn't just about research for us. It's about marketing, advertising, mobile web, information consumption, technology, psychology, new media...the list is endless. But, to be a company of experts means that we have to constantly learn about this stuff. And that's pretty difficult to do, right?
Wrong. It's very easy. And you can do it. And all your workmates can do it. With a shake of know-how and a sprinkling of discipline, everyone can evolve into an expert. We're going to show you how we do it.
Before we share our specific technique, it does need to be said that the value of learning is the single-most important thing that needs to be communicated. People need to be able to take time out of the work days to learn. Whether it is as informal as using downtime to learn or having a steadfast hour a day to do nothing but read; whatever you choose, just make sure you do it.
Our addiction to knowledge focuses around three key pieces of technology:
These simple and completely free web-based tools make searching for and sharing relevant information extremely easy and painless.
We use Google Reader to scan headlines. Once we find an article that's interesting, we click on it and do some further scanning of the article. If it's something that's relevant for our own education or the education of our colleagues, we click another button and send it to our Instapaper accounts for a more thorough reading when we have some downtime.
Within Instapaper, we have various folders set up. Some folders we share with each other. Our process involves reading through our Instapaper inbox and then assigning various articles to relevant folders. So, Chelsea could share her "Evolve Blogs" folder with us, so we can all see things that she thinks might be good to blog about. Stew could share his "Industry Articles" folder with us, so we can all see things that he thinks we should all read to make us look smart. We even share some folders with clients to help them stay on top of the latest information in their field.
This is the core of our learning efforts. This software is a simple RSS-based reader. We use it so subscribe to websites and blogs that interest us. So, instead of having to bounce around between umpteen million websites, our reading list is in one place and categorized.
The great thing about Google Reader is that it allows you to discover more blogs and websites that you might be interested in but may not necessarily know about or commonly come accross. It's a small but very powerful feature.
Think of Instapaper as a stuff to read later list. We use Google Reader to scan for potentially interesting articles but anything that is interesting that we want to share we zap on over to Instapaper with a click of a button.
Instapaper is our key to sharing information. Within the app, we set up various folders that Evolve folk and clients subscribe to (which in turn sends it to their Google Reader accounts). As I read through my reading list within Instapaper, I may come across an article that has to do with focus group moderation techniques. I file this in my "internal" folder. Now, everyone at Evolve sees this article within their RSS feed and knows that they need to read it.
This information sharing technique is key in the development of staff expertise.
The great thing about Instapaper is that you can buy the app for your iPhone, iPad or Kindle. The app automatically synchronizes with your online account and downloads articles so you can read and categorize them offline - great for airplanes.
Feedly is a great website that directly plugs-in to your Google Reader account. While Reader is great, the interface isn't the sexiest and articles can look rather dull and boring. Feedly simply presents your Google Reader subscriptions in a magazine format; making things easier on the eye and more readable.
So, we use Google Reader to set up our subscriptions, but Feedly to actually read through them and send relevant discoveries to Instapaper.
Note: Feedly isn't essential to our education - Google Reader and Instapaper alone work just as well.
While we have shared one of the techniques we use to maintain and improve our expertise at Evolve, it certainly isn't the only way to do it. There is a myriad of learning and sharing tools out there that may work better for you as an individual (and we'd love for you to share those with us).
The real key to this story is that we do take the time to learn and help our workmates learn by constantly finding and sharing information. It's how we grow. It's how we become better at what we do. It's how we evolve.