Contribute Expertise To The Community


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It has been said that for every problem there is a uniquely prepared mind somewhere in the world who has the answer to that problem. We like to believe that we are all experts at something, right? As a manufacturing professional, you have expertise and experience that is invaluable to someone who is trying to solve a challenge right now somewhere in the world.

Bill Gates has been credited with the question, “Twenty years ago, would you rather have been a B student in Poughkeepsie or a genius in Shanghai?” Twenty years ago you’d rather be a B student in Poughkeepsie. Today, not even close. You’d much prefer to be the genius in Shanghai because you can now export your talents anywhere in the world thanks to the Internet.

The Internet is facilitating rapid knowledge aggregation on virtually every subject, in every language and creating online communities made up of like-minded individuals trying to match problems to solutions. There are a number of online forums and communities where you can participate and either ask for or give expertise and advice. Ideally, it’s a two-way street, and you will do a little of both. As with anything in life, it’s best to strike a balance of giving and taking.

These communities can offer a world of good, but the spell check function and a second set of eyes are always helpful. Once you make a posting to one of these online communities, you will most likely not be able to edit or delete it. My advice is to be careful with your advice and gentle with your words. I know people who have made postings that were not well thought out, and it has haunted them in cyberspace any time someone searches for them or their companies.

However, when done correctly, becoming recognized by the online community for your expertise can be some of the best PR you and your company can get. Every time someone searches the subject, you could be at the top of the search engines. For example, you may respond with a solution online to someone who was having trouble machining a particular exotic material. A few months later, a person who is looking for a company that can machine that material goes online and does a search, and they immediately come across you as the expert in machining that material. Who do you think they are going to contact for their business? The benefits to you are numerous. Without a doubt, you’ll be proud when you show your family and friends the accolades you receive online.

Where do you find these online communities? I would start by going to Google (groups.google.com) and Yahoo! (groups.yahoo.com) and searching for groups by keywords that interest you, such as “machining,” “contract manufacturing” or “CAD/CAM.” Another one of my favorite communities, and probably the most active in metalworking, is the forums at MMS Online.

If you do not see a particular group that you are looking for, start one yourself. To start a group at Google and Yahoo!, simply register, select a name for your group and set up a few rules by which the group will operate. For example, you can choose to let anyone post a message to the group or only let people you approve post messages. The challenging part of starting a new group is getting people to join and participate. E-mail your friends and industry associates and ask them to join. Also, make postings in similar groups politely letting people know about your new group.

Whether you join an online community or start one yourself, you’ll be amazed at the willingness of people to help each other and collaborate on topics of similar interest. You will be able to get and give advice, with only a few mouse clicks, that previously was only available from engaging high-price consultants. The world has been flattened, and the Internet was one of the great flatteners.

Mitch Free is president & CEO of MfgQuote.com, Atlanta, Georgia. He can be reached at (770) 444-9686, ext. 2946 or at mfree@mfgquote.com