Digital distraction – a force for good?

I was once given some very good advice, second hand from a business coach. The motto was “If you are going to be in the room, be in the room”. This proved valuable advice for me. As someone who seemed always to be juggling too many things at once, the discipline of focusing on one thing at a time and doing it well was something of a revelation. By making lists and prioritising I was able to get things done more effectively, meetings were focused, my productivity soared. And they key to “being in the room” was removing distractions.  Simple.
Fast forward 15 years and the game has changed beyond recognition. Much has been written about the evils of this digital age. Our days are an assault course of distractions – from our own needy smartphone tics, to the constant barrage of emails, texts and social media notifications. We are dual screening, checking in, hashtagging our way through life, and business. Many a meeting now takes place accompanied by furious tapping into keyboards and phones while conversation falters, skype connections sputter and die.
But. There is a kind of digital distraction that I believe is a glorious force for good.
Take Google. A simple Google search can take you off on a journey into the unknown. By beginning to research a company, a prospect, a brand with a few keywords you can helter skelter through all kinds of facts, links, soundbites and unexpected connections.  The more you look, the more you find and the web of information (literally) expands.
For new business folk – this is wonderful news. Your clients and prospects need to see that you understand their business, their markets, their people, customers and competitors, and getting the inside track has never been easier, if you look, and are prepared to keep looking, the answers are there in the far reaches of the web. Interviews, shareholder presentations, chairmans statements, annual accounts, LinkedIn job descriptions provide a range of clues – not always facts – but clues that will help you to build a war chest of questions, intelligence and contacts.
So make time for the Google breadcrumb trail and embrace the distraction of Google alerts.  Enlist the help of Flipboard and Delicious and set up bookmarks to organise your findings. File stories, set up tags to categorize LinkedIn profiles currently outside your network.
The clue you have been waiting for may only be a few clicks away.