An online community is an environment much like any other environment that you know. There are dynamic factors at work, discussions taking place, ideas being exchanged, knowledge being shared and professional development occurring. A network such as Land Surveyors United is not merely a website. Websites are usually static, contain informative content which seldom changes and when it does, you can bet that only one person or a small group of people have authority to choose what changes and when. Networks are quite different because they are dynamic and have a lot of moving parts such as forum discussions which can be engaged by like-minded individuals, photos which allow your feedback and events to participate in. The major difference is that networks have approved members who can contribute to the content on a level which appeals to them, allowing their voice to be factored in to the discussion. You can use this situation to your advantage, if you simply allow yourself an open perspective. I am about to tell you something that you probably already know, but perhaps haven't considered from a different perspective. Namely, there are at least 3 ways that this community can help you with your professional development.
Firstly, Information Sharing Brings Change
You may think that giving away your hard-earned surveying knowledge for free is ridiculous. But you'd be wrong. In fact, sharing knowledge in a community such as this is actually not giving it away. You get something even more valuable in return. In fact, one of the most obvious ways this community can help a professional learn is by allowing the exchange of ideas to occur. This simply can not be overstated. You accumulate a lot of knowledge during your time as a surveying or geospatial professional and you might begin to think that you know it all. All it takes is one person – or worse, one lost customer – to come along and show you how little you truly know.
Whether you believe it or not, this is actually a good thing! Suddenly realizing that you are nowhere near as smart or experienced as you think you are allows you to begin to grow in ways you didn’t, or rather couldn't have expected. Use your colleagues and even your competitors to expand your knowledge, both locally and globally. Don’t forget: other surveyors around the world have knowledge to share AND need your expertise too, so don’t be afraid to share. After we leave this earth, the only thing remaining is what we have shared with others.
Secondly, Embrace Different Perspectives
Aside from shared information, perspective is something that can only be gained when you discuss your perspective with other people or consult new sources. As you might imagine, after doing business for so long, you start to think your way is the only way. It’s only when we’re challenged do we see how wrong we are. It’s only when we’re challenged do we consider the possibility that our way just may not be the only way. It’s only when we’re challenged do we need the support of other surveyors.
Let’s say for instance that you’ve been selling your surveying services one way for years and it’s never failed you. As a result, you become incredibly confident in your methods. However, at a community meeting, you realize your colleague is selling the same survey services in a drastically different way — and it’s never failed him, either. The conversations you could have about that alone could be business-altering!
Thirdly,Community Takes You Away From Work — Kind of
The thing about getting stuck in a rut which burns the most involves doing the same thing time and time again, over and over, all day every day. So, if you find yourself always getting stuck at the office or going to client meetings or working on paperwork, you’re going to eventually hit a wall and burn out. It has certainly happened before and it will happen again, even to the best professionals out there.
Getting out of the office once in a while and mingling with others in your same position is a terrific way to free your brain up for a while and relax while you still move forward with your company. This same activity can happen inside an online environment. When engaging with other land surveyors on this network, you’re not pulling yourself completely away, but simply hanging out with like-minded individuals (even online) can help you step away from any problems you’re having and see them from a new perspective. Simply taking your mind off of the same old day in and day out routine for a while goes a long way toward allowing your brain to recharge.
So I Ask You..
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned from your colleagues or your competitors in online communities?