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What does current awareness mean to me? The entrepreneur's view

Roberto Rivero
March 13, 2020

I have always been a big believer in the benefits of cross-pollinating ideas – of picking up concepts and techniques from one field, then adapting and implementing them in another.

Doing what to me seems like something obvious and easy, has led to me being called “entrepreneurial” and “innovative” many times in my career.

Current awareness is a concept I’ve recently learned about and that I think should be a lot more widespread than it currently is. In most large legal firms, big pharma and some academic institutions, current awareness is a term that is widely understood and used.

growth through knowledge

What does current awareness mean to me? 

Professionally, we all have topics that we have to stay up to date on. In my last job, at S&P, that included changes in investor appetite and news of large corporates raising funds in the capital markets, or re-organising their operations and any changes in relevant regulations.

Current Awareness is a concept I’ve learned about relatively recently that I think should be a lot more widespread than it currently is.  It is a practice that is used extensively in large legal firms, big pharma and some academic institutions.

For lawyers vital information includes any changes in their particular area of the law, significant news about their clients and their industries – and important announcements made by their competitors. Current awareness is the practice of staying on top of those subjects that are crucial to our jobs.

I have always been a big believer in the benefits of cross-pollinating ideas – of picking up concepts and techniques from one field, then adapting and implementing them in another. Doing what to me seems like something obvious and easy, has led to me being called “entrepreneurial” and “innovative” many times in my career.

In the past, staff in a law firm’s library and information services would manually scan relevant publications to try to ensure they didn’t miss anything significant for any of their internal clients. These days, there are tools that can help to automate that scanning, and process the information that is found.

I found these resources invaluable ☞

This is just as well. The number of information sources has increased exponentially to include emails, blogs and other social media and smaller less well known publicationsNew relevant information sources also includes the websites and materials published by clients, competitors, regulators and other industry players.

My practical approach to current awareness

One of the most powerful current awareness tools is produced by Vable, a technology company I chair.  Taking advantage of my position in the company and my free access to Vable’s InfoPro, I recently decided to automate my own current awareness practice.

In my post-corporate life, I am trying to carve out a career as an Angel investor and a mentor to early-stage companies.  This involves doing a lot of research into the companies and the fields they operate in as one of the first step in my decision-making process. This research revolves around reading business plans, meeting staff and potential clients – and heavy use of Google.

A green light after this stage is likely to lead to weeks of negotiation. During that time I want to make sure I don’t miss any significant developments in the area I’ve just worked so hard to learn. I also want to keep an eye on any news affecting any of the companies I am already working with, or have an eye on. And, as useful background, I want to stay informed on the economy and the more significant deals being done by VCs.

It is really refreshing not to have to go and look for information – it now comes to me. Obviously, this saves me time, less obviously, it also spares me that anxious feeling that I may have missed something important.

The companies I am interested in are small, so I am unlikely to find news about them in Bloomberg, or the FT. I have to look in more arcane places – their websites and those of any competitors, blogs and small industry journals. In the mainstream media, I will find relevant content about the economy, larger niche markets and larger competitors, if any.

I might be working with 5 or 6 companies at any one time and researching another 2 or 3. Mostly they all work in different areas – so this can add up to be a lot of reading.

Vable allows me to automate the search for new information. It also allows me to decide how to group my content and how I want it delivered to me. I’ve elected to receive an email at 7:30 every morning with my news grouped by company.

It is really refreshing not to have to go and look for information – it now comes to me. Obviously, this saves me time, less obviously, it also spares me that anxious feeling that I may have missed something important.

Benefits of an aggregated current awareness

Here are some immediate benefits to current awareness aggregation:

  • Time saving: When there are stories from multiple publications, I can save more time by scanning the high level summaries contained in my email. I don’t have to read all 5 articles about, say, Softbank financing WeWork, I can just pick the one or two I most want to read from the list. 
  • Multiple views: When I do want to read all articles about the same story because it’s important to me, I can read them one after the other, not hours apart as you would normally. I find this aids my digestion of the information and my focus on a topic.
  • Daily routine: My reading arrives at the same time, at the time I have decided is best given my daily routine. Occasionally, I will have to postpone a day’s reading but taking a quick glance at my email allows me to quickly determine whether there is anything crucial I must read before starting my workday.
  • Reassurance: Knowing that all my reading is there, marked / saved and waiting for me, makes me feel more comfortable about coming back to it later.

I know that, through Vable, I have a vested interest but I really recommend taking a look at automating your current awareness if you work in a job where staying informed plays a key role in your success.

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