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By Walter T. Marlowe

Walt MarloweNote: Excerpts of this piece originally appeared in CSI’s Construction Specifier Magazine, Feb 2014 issue, page 8.

I have the pleasure of working with AAPS members around the globe and contributing to the advancement of the pharmaceutical industry without doing scientific tasks. How in the world did I get here, almost 30 years into my career? Was it all planned, or was it influenced by a bit of serendipity? I’m voting for the latter, coupled with the power of my professional network.

We’re besieged with communications and information at every turn. We get hit with phone calls, memos, emails, mail, instant messages, texts, social media, RSS feeds, and countless other channels. One natural response to this assault is to ignore everything except what comes from sources or people we trust.

Our need for a trusted source or respected filter helps us cope and then move to actually acquiring valued knowledge. This knowledge sharing is a primary reason we cultivate our professional relationships. The question is: how often does our existing professional network, or the tools we choose to use to acquire new information, enhance or limit our ability to expose ourselves to new concepts?

Most AAPS members say their first source of information is Google. This works most of the time; otherwise, members would be moving on to other tools. Yet how many times does this limit the possibilities of answers? After all, we can only search concepts to which we’ve already been introduced. What about all the other potential knowledge of which we’re unaware, but could help solve our problem or lead to a new connection and discovery? It’s the trap of not knowing what we don’t know.

Ideally, we’d like to put together a network of trusted advisors we can rely on and experiment safely with. This is where AAPS comes in. How many times can members point to an interaction with other members where they were introduced to a new concept, were able to connect two previously seemingly unrelated themes, or were given advice in an area they never thought to inquire about? How many times did an AAPS interaction get you to understand a perspective of a project team member you don’t regularly work with or hadn’t previously considered? I’m betting it’s much greater than any of us could keep track of.

AAPS’ network of trusted experts can come together with serendipity to create a powerful tool for advancing professional knowledge and our industry.

Give serendipity a chance: read an AAPS section newsletter, participate in an AAPS Linkedln discussion, sit in on an AAPS webinar, and attend the AAPS Annual Meeting. Participate, and see what unexpected knowledge you come away with or contribute to. I know valuable knowledge and enduring relationships await.

Walter T. Marlowe, M.B.A., C.A.E, is the AAPS executive director.