Personal Impact Factor 4: Means are not Ends!

My Personal Impact Factor says my goals are to improve the thinking of my colleagues, my students, and practitioners and to improve the practice of logistics (see this post). How should I proceed?

The traditional answer has been to teach courses and publish articles in academic journals—the bread and butter of academic life. There certainly was a time when professors and students went to the library to do research on a topic, but that time is now past. The first place we go now is Google, then we go wherever Google leads us. Eventually we end up at many of those same journals, albeit in their electronic versions. Practitioners, of course, are locked out of the vault of scientific knowledge (unless they pay their $39.99 per article!), so they must resort exclusively to the web.

Given the dramatic changes in how we communicate, the task of disseminating scientific knowledge is much more daunting, but potentially much more effective—if I am willing to embrace the new technologies. So, here’s my current list of means for accomplishing my ends:

  • Journal articles. The old favorite. Someday they might go the way of the dinosaur, but not in my lifetime. I must still write the article, go through the review process, and get the stamp of collegial approval. That’s the game.
  • Conference papers and presentations. Still an effective way to influence the thinking of people in front of me, although the PIF has inspired me to take more seriously the quality of my talks.
  • Courses. Still a legitimate means of attempting to reach students!
  • Industry talks and webinars. If I am to reach practitioners, I must look for opportunities to speak where they are. Webinars can be a very effective means of reaching the practicing community, and it sure beats travel. (Russ Meller and I once gave a webinar to more than 100 warehouse professionals.)
  • Website and blog. Well, you’re reading it, so it must be at least marginally effective. My goal with this site is to create a place for people to find out about what I’m doing. Down the road, I would like it to become a place where people exchange ideas about logistics problems and solutions. Community building will take time.
  • Youtube. My goal is to post a 5 minute overview of every research paper, in terms that the average person could understand. Youtube seems to have become the new Google for “How do I…?”
  • Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook. Used correctly, these are terrific tools for connecting with the people who should care about what we do. It always frustrates me to find out that Researcher X wrote a great paper two years ago that I never heard about. This should not happen! I will have more to say on this point later.
  • Press releases and trade journals. Industry media outlets are always looking for interesting “content”—why not oblige them? The press is a great place to get wide exposure to industry…for free.

So, I’ve just done a piece of research that I’m excited about. What should I do next? First, submit the paper and present the results at a conference or two. This is where the traditional distribution model stops. The new model says: Next, send the paper to 20 colleagues and industry folks who ought to be interested. Then post a web page summary of the article and announce it on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. Do a 5 minute youtube video and announce that. If appropriate, contact a trade journal editor to see if he would be interested in doing a story. And on, and on, and on. Distribution Model 2.0.

Questions to ponder

  • Would you more effectively accomplish your true professional goals if you made use of additional means, such as a blog, website, youtube, etc.?
  • What is keeping you from using these technologies or other means? [Hint: “I don’t have the time” is the wrong answer! You must make the time!]
  • What long-term benefits might you see from making better use of additional means?

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