Two posts inspired by conversations with a consulting colleague, Nick Hoyt. The first on a how the lens of Industrialization affects knowledge management and design.
There have been many conversations about moving knowledge management away from the traditional idea of (Frederick W) Taylorian Management to a different form that is less focused on measuring the activity of knowledge workers and more on supporting them in what they need to do. Knowledge work is not an activity that can be easily reduced to repeatable, mechanical steps. The management approach needs to be geared towards providing focus and context, and knowledge workers derive their own inner compass for doing the best work they can.
He pointed me to a recent AlertBox from Jacob Nielsen in which he explores the effects of Industrialization and what could be next for the internet. His list of what post-industrialization promises should sound familiar:
- Custom-built products instead of mass-produced ones
- Niche products
- Virtual companies instead of big firms in centralized locations
- Geographically dispersed companies and services
- Work/life integration
I wonder if there is a connection to the idea that knowledge workers can't be tied to the industrial management mindset too.
- Each project or research request is unique. Granted, knowledge workers should be able to learn from past work and even borrow from other knowledge work.
- Similarly, a knowledge worker can add value in very small areas within a larger industry. There are specialists in very specific types of chemical research; or people who are experts in industries where there may only be a few potential customers.
- Knowledge work no longer needs to be a component of a large company. However, there is somewhat of a conflict in that these disparate people need to have standard mechanisms for communication and describing requirements and results. Virtual, yes. Isolated, no.
- Well-designed approaches to knowledge management should be able to combine with business strategy to "narrowcast" to the people who need it. (Forgive me)
- Reputation is clearly a big component of how independent consultant operate, but it is also important in the frequently-ignored arena of how people transmit knowledge amongst each other.
Updated to fix some annoying formatting problems.