For anyone who has ever tried to play pool, it quickly becomes obvious that the best way to get the ball in the pocket isn’t always the most direct.
If there’s another ball in the way or the angle doesn’t work, redirecting the ball off one of the cushions can be the best option. Even if you need to hit the ball without banking it, you may need to strike it on the side instead of straight on. In either case, you’re not looking at the goal but at the indirect means of reaching of the goal.
We’ve been writing for years about meta-thinking: how to look for the things that will get you the thing you want. Don’t google for the lawyer in New York, google for the body that licenses lawyers you’ll be able to look at their list (which isn’t fully indexed by Google). See our posts Meta Searching for Fake Royals and Surprise! Google is There to Make Money. There’s also my book, The Art of Fact Investigation.
I thought of indirect investigation yesterday when in group discussion of lawyers and accountants, we were asked to talk about the moment we knew we were good at our jobs.
Find a Lawyer in Liberia Without a Liberian Website. Go!
My moment came in my first job after law school when my new company asked me to find them a lawyer in Liberia. The country was largely destroyed after years of warfare and there was no workable phone system there.
I found them a lawyer in about an hour. Instead of looking in Liberia or anywhere in Africa, I found a former Liberian president living in the U.S. Midwest where he was teaching at a university.
In Liberia he had been a big shot, but here he was in the phonebook and picked up his home land line at lunchtime. Of course he knew lawyers in Liberia and informed me that they were all using cell phones from Ghana. He recommended two, gave me their numbers, and within two days we had hired one and paid him by wire. Our documents arrived by courier the next week. It sounds simple enough, but nobody else had thought of it.
And How Were You Spelling That?
Another example from the same company a few months later: They had done an interview with someone who recommended talking to a former employee with a very long Italian surname.
The interviewee didn’t’ know how to spell the name, which contained three vowels that, based on pronunciation, could have been a’s, e’s i’s or u’s. There were consonants that could have been single or double. It would have cost a fortune to run databases on all the permutations, which is why they hadn’t found him.
I decided to play around with the permutations in the Social Security Death Index (free), figuring that certain combinations would be rare and certain ones very common. I found the guy with the second-most common possible spelling and we reached him by phone immediately. This after months of fruitless googling.
Sometimes, the bank shot is the way to go.