Something's Broken in the Knowledge Economy - InformationWeek

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9/28/2006
11:35 AM
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Something's Broken in the Knowledge Economy

The more I speak with knowledge workers, the more I am left to ponder how many get their work done, with systems as complex and unfriendly as they are.  What many have told me is:

  • They get their work done despite the tools (i.e. software) assigned to them
  • They conspire to create workarounds
  • They sometimes have to ignore entire sections of a project due to software inadequacies.

In other words, these knowledge workers are telling me that their work environment is wholly inadequate for the performance of knowledge work.  (Yet they find clever ways for accomplishing their work.)These same knowledge workers also tell me that they frequently cannot find what they are looking for (congruous with the widely-published statistic that ca. 50% of all searches fail).  Further, in part due to search technology that has not kept up with how knowledge workers actually work, knowledge workers get results that they assume to be correct – but are not.  Technically speaking, these searches have failed although the knowledge worker believes otherwise.  What happens then is beyond the scope of this commentary.

We're starting to investigate how knowledge workers have improved their lot in spite of the roadblocks thrown their way.  Examples might include a researcher who creates his own database due to inadequecies in what he is given; a salesman who finds his own tools to manage contacts, because the corporate tool is unwieldy; and an accountant who builds clever spreadsheets to increase his productivity.

Perhaps you have a story like this.  If so, please share it.  E-mail me at [email protected].

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