Making mental connections takes time

Victoria Ward has an interesting set of thoughts on knowledge work in Like a Samurai's sword.  I'm not sure of a good quote, so I'll just use her last question as an enticement to read the whole thing.

How many of us, in the conditions of urgent work which press hard down on us, find room to spend 'a week, or even weeks...accumulating powers of attention, memory and intuition'? Do we give ourselves permission? Are we given permission? Do we, perhaps need to start taking permission rather than wait for it to be given?

I am reminded of Jim McGee's Knowledge Work as Craft Work, as Victoria gives the example of craftspeople.  These are people who have to study and reflect and plan before they pick up their hammers.

Knowledge work is not the work in front of the computer (or smartphone) spent typing and reading, though that certainly informs things.  It is the work spent on analyzing and pondering.  It is the work of making serendipitous connections to other ideas and other people.  It may happen on the computer.  But it might just as easily happen in the park or at a conference.  (Was it HP that had those entrepreneur commercials of people getting great ideas in the shower?)

On a personal note here, I find it far too easy to attempt to think in front of PowerPoint, rather than a more appropriate location.  My pad of paper and crummy drawing skills frequently break the logjam of hours.

3 Comment(s)

Brett Author Profile Page said:

Vivian's post is, as you say, interesting. A lot of "old" questions asked from a new perspective. In answer to her question, I think that a knowledge worker is someone who "takes permission" rather than waiting for it to be given.

That article of Jim's is one of my favorites on the subject; I've got it printed and pasted in my notebook and refer back to it occassionally for inspiration. Like you, I find that paper and pen(s) work best,just much more intuitive. I'm still giving OneNote a shot, but it just isn't quite living up to expectations. (Of course, if I had a TabletPC....)

David Montgomery Author Profile Page said:


"Knowledge work is not the work in front of the computer"

Arguably such work is the complete opposite since it is all too easy to get stuck in automatic mode and unlike our keyboards, the human being is not equipped with Ctrl+Alt+Del.

Sometimes the term knowledge work can be on helpful since it implies that only those in work are generating or helping knowledge to flow and nothing could be further from the truth.

Taking time to reflect is an interesting idea that few pursue actively or if they do only in short infrequent bursts…..okay that’s enough about my shortcomings! Reflection is not the same as those accursed moments when bright ideas come to you in the shower and you discover that bathroom tiles are wholly inadequate for the purpose of jotting notes. Reflection needs to be a deliberate act and requires conscious effort, although relaxation can certainly enhance the process.

It does seem odd that we do not take the time to reflect and figure out what we have learnt and equally what we have not learnt. Or why things turned out the way they did in a certain situation. But of at least equal importance is to plan reflection or rather cultivate it as a habit as opposed to programming yet another reminder, so that an e-slap is delivered from your blackberry or PC each time you forget to do your stint of reflection. Indeed surely the absence of reflection makes the whole concept of knowledge creation and flow less of a meaningful exercise and more of a process of shifting blocks of information about? After all, learning is not a spectator sport and requires active engagement so unless we take the time to think what happens and why or what we could do differently next time then we are little more than basking sharks..........

Best definition of knowledge work I've seen in a while. Thanks.

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