So, my challenge to all of you is: "Join Your Own Clique"
One of the best things I’ve done in the past few years has been to join a clique. Now, I’m not talking about the Mean Moms Club (or in my case, the “Mean Dads Club”), but rather, a group of people that you can bounce ideas off of. In my case, I e-mail a group of four or five other legal professionals (most of them librarians, but not all) almost every day for their opinions on one thing or another. We call ourselves “The Bradys,” as the group contains a Greg, a Jan, a Marsha, and someone we nicknamed Sam the Butcher. When I have an idea, want to try a new product, or want to see what others think about a new Web site I found, I e-mail the Bradys and get their feedback.
This type of relationship with others outside my specific workplace allows me to get honest opinions from others without the bias I might get from someone within my organization. Of course there are a number of things that we cannot discuss due to ethical or legal reasons, but there are a number of general topics that we can discuss, and we are able to leverage our combined experiences in order to make more informed decisions.
You can find your own "Brady Bunch" through social networking tools like Twitter, LinkedIn, listservs, or other communication tools that you use. You can even use 1.0 technology and expand the relationships that you form during conferences. The key is to "communicate." It doesn't always have to be business talk, you can let them know you've taken your kids to a movie and suggest that they take their kids or their neighbor, or their neighbor's kids to the same movie. Build the relationship and leverage that relationship to take advantage of the diverse knowledge that each of you possess. You'll find that they may have stared down a similar challenge that you are facing and can advice you on what worked (or didn't work) for them. To paraphrase General Patton, the key isn't to learn from your mistakes, but rather to learn from the mistakes of others.
Get out there and find your clique. If you do, I guarantee you that by this time next year, you'll wonder how you managed to live without them.