I always enjoy Jim McGee's thoughts pertaining to knowledge work. And it's his fault that I started blogging. This time he's reflecting on how our knowledge work has become invisible in the all-digital world in which we live. Managing the visibility of knowledge work.
As a knowledge worker, much of what I get paid for happens inside my own head. Before the advent of a more or less ubiquitous digital environment, however, that head work used to generate a variety of markers and visible manifestations.
Jim talks about the value of having tangible work products as evidence of knowledge work: apprentices get to see how things are done; I can see the progress of my own work; colleagues know what I am working on; ... Without those visible signals, we have to make the effort to help each other see at least the outlines of the work.
How might we do that? The current technology lets us replicate some of the old processes (drafts; reviews; trial runs; hardcopy). Collaboration platforms of many varieties help us see status and progress and questions, all depending on the circumstances. Good project management tools should help in the same way: not only with status of tasks / projects but also priority signals and warnings when things seem to be going awry. And then there is always the tons of email digital dross to prove that something is happening.
But do we have to recreate the same kind of visibility of knowledge work? Why not figure out ways to make Knoweldge work visible? Given that a bunch of us were at the Enterprise 2.0 conference last week, the obvious thing that stands out for me are the use of "status updates" and other ambient status mechanisms to let people know what is going on. I suspect I was also inspired in this thought path by John Tropea's article from yesterday, Ambient awareness is the new normal, c'mon already!
And, as usual, this topic isn't just interesting. I work with three people, rarely in the same time zone. We'd like to keep up with each other, but email feels far too clumsy. And the other two aren't (yet?) on Twitter.
[Photo: "Spray Paint Texture 6" by designm.ag]