There are a variety of articles and papers that I continue to draw insight from and find myself recommending to others on a regular basis. I decided it would be a useful exercise to assemble them into one set of pointers, add a little bit of commentary, and make it available.
I limited myself to materials that were easily available on the web, which eliminated some more obscure, academic, materials that you probably wouldn’t want to read anyway. I ended up with a dozen items that fall into two categories. The first group represents useful thinking about individual knowledge workers; the second about design principles relevant at the organizational and strategic level.
Design space for individual knowledge work
- “As We May Think” – Vannevar Bush. Peter Drucker coined the term “knowledge worker” in 1959. Bush set the framework for a knowledge worker’s day in 1945.
- “Structured procrastination” – John Perry. A somewhat different, but nonetheless useful take on how to best leverage a multi-tasking, multi-demand world.
- “You and Your Research” – Richard Hamming. Underlying strategies for how to set and follow a strategy for tackling worthwhile and rewarding problems. Although focused on research, the advice is readily applicable to all kinds of knowledge work.
- “Augmenting Human Intellect: A Conceptual Framework” – Doug Engelbart. Engelbart set an agenda for the use of technology for knowledge work that drove much of the conceptual innovation in software for the last several decades.
- “Personal Dynamic Media” (PDF file) – Alan Kay and Adele Goldberg. Along with Engelbart’s paper, Kay and Goldberg’s imagines much of the personal computing revolution and how we might best make use of technology in doing knowledge work.
Strategic and Organizational Design Principles
- “The nature of the firm” (PDF file) – Coase. Coase ultimately own a Nobel prize in economics for this work, which examines the conditions that differentiate between activities best organized by markets vs. those best organized by organizations.
- Cluetrain manifesto – Searls, Weinberger, Locke, Levine. The first, and still best, thinking about the ways that the internet affects markets and marketing
- “End to end arguments in system design” (PDF file) – Saltzer, Reed, & Clark. These guys were key designers of the underlying protocols that drive the internet. This paper lays out the reasons why centralized command and control is a bad idea in networks; regardless of how appealing it tends to be to the powers-that-be.
- “Rise of the stupid network – Isenberg. From a former phone industry software engineer, this paper provides an interesting examination of the interaction between technology change and organizational/strategic inertia.
- The long tail“– Anderson . The article that led to the book. Both offer insight into the opportunities to design products and services that take advantage of how the net offers alternatives to mass markets.
- “Places to intervene in a system” – Meadows. The changes we need to make to take full advantage of the opportunities that technology presents us depend on thinking and operating at a systems level. This is the best short overview of the leverage points that can be found and used to make this level of change happen.
- “Wicked problems and social complexity” (PDF file) – Conklin. As a counterbalance to Meadows, Conklin enriches the discussion of systems change by laying out the notion of “wicked problems.” These are the kinds problems whose solutions arise from the interaction between competing interest groups and change the definition of the problem as they are implemented.