McGee’s Musings turns 19 today

McGee’s Musings turns 19 today. I started this outpost on the Web nineteen years ago while I was on the faculty of the Kellogg School. It was a way to share ideas with my students. It also grew out of my abiding interest in doing knowledge work effectively.

Recently, there’s been a resurgence of interest in how to best apply technology to knowledge work. Some of this is about developing software tools. More interesting to me has been a set of new ideas about how to use tools. Notes, for example, have taken on new roles and new importance. What does it mean for a note to be “atomic” or evergreen?” Why is that a useful distinction?

What is a Zettelkasten? Should I care? How about a “digital garden?”

One of the key concepts I’ve been working out for myself has been the idea of making knowledge work observable. This spot has been one element of that ongoing effort.

I’m beginning to work on how to improve this experiment both for myself and those who’ve been following along. There are two key questions I need to address. The first is where to draw the line between what gets shared and what isn’t yet fully baked. When in the creation process does it help to reveal the current state of progress to make still more progress? That’s largely an emotional decision about how exposed I want to feel.

The second question is what other elements should be part of the design of this place? What would make this site more useful for you? What’s missing? I’ve got some ideas. I’m researching others. What would you recommend?

Identifying Knowledge Work Practices

I’m continuing the quest to understand and improve my work practices. Several terms/ideas have been holding my attention and I’d like to work out how they might fit together;

After some iteration, I put them together in the following diagram;

Let’s start with signals and noise. Noise is a problem in pretty much any communications environment. Social media of late is an environment with a lot more signal than noise, for example. Claude Shannon pretty much invented the field of information theory in his work at Bell Labs in the 1940s. There might have been a point when I understood the math back in my youth. Today, I’m content to settle for a metaphorical approach and think about my work as uncovering or creating signal out of noise.

I’ve been running up against the limits of deliverable and working backwards. Over focusing on deliverables limits your thinking when you are early in the process and don’t yet have clear notions of deliverables. I’ve found the notions of sensemaking and solving for pattern effective ways to counterbalance that focus.

Another notion I am playing with is a distinction between Intake and Pre-Intake. I appreciate the warnings of some in the Zettelkasten crowd about the “collector’s fallacy,” but not enough to stop picking up shiny things. I value my magpie tendencies and I’m reluctant to trade faux-productivity for creativity.

As I thought through this broad flow from initial inputs to deliverables, it occurred to me that it was worth thinking of process/practice management as a layer distinct from the working layer I typically operate within. One hypothesis I’m exploring is that there is a useful distinction to be made between process and practice. “Process” feels a bit too rigid for most knowledge work; practice seems to better capture an appropriate degree of flexibility and adaptability.

Regardless of how the process/practice distinction evolves, separating the managing layer from the doing layer is helping. It allows me to investigate activities and practices that may be missing from my current repertoire. As a first approximation, I’ve identified several practice management elements to investigate:

Some of the pieces exist–reference management, archive management–and could stand improvement. What is most evident to me is that I don’t have effective practices for managing WIP and reading. Now, I’ve got some shape on what to work on next.

Building A Bespoke Knowledge Work Environment with Off-the-Rack Tools

Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

I’m still slogging through the mess I spoke about last time. I just checked and I’ve written over 10,000 words since then; none of which yet rise to the threshold of being worth sharing. Some will before too long, I hope.

One of the thoughts that leaked out of my fingertips during that time is the seed of an idea that provoked this post.

As a knowledge worker, one permanent task on your to do list is to build a bespoke knowledge work environment using the off-the-rack tools  available.

I am in the midst of unpacking that idea for myself and decided it would be useful to share that process. I won’t expose all of the mess; the daily journal entries where snippets of this post first surfaced, the list of previous posts that I searched out and reread, the bullet point outline I am working from right now. But I will try to reflect the essentials.

I’ve organized this around the following four questions:

1. Why do you/I need a bespoke environment?

2. Why are most of us constrained to leverage off-the-rack tools?

3. Why is this perspective useful?

4. Where should you/I start?

Why do you/I need a bespoke environment?

Off-the-rack is a concept that didn’t exist before the industrial revolution. All products and services were bespoke. If you needed a new shirt, you made it yourself or had someone make it just for you. The industrial revolution and the industrial era were built on a different promise; accept some level of standardized product in exchange for a huge leap in average quality and a proliferation of choices. This has been such a successful strategy, that it’s easy to forget that it is based on a tradeoff.

Knowledge work and the products of knowledge work return us to a bespoke world. Value in knowledge work is correlated with uniqueness. I’ve written about this before (Balancing Uniqueness and Uniformity in Knowledge Work). If your goal is to pursue unique insights and contributions, you will want to tweak and tune your work environment in any and all of the ways that contribute to achieving that uniqueness.

Why are most of us constrained to leverage off-the-rack tools?

Inventing and building new tools is an order of magnitude more difficult than using existing tools. We tend to forget this when we reach for tools in an existing environment; you aren’t likely to think about what it takes to make a carpenter’s hammer as you pick one up to drive a nail.

Until recently, the fundamental tools of knowledge work were simple and readily available. Paper and pencil, blackboard and chalk, can take you far down the path of creating a knowledge work artifact of value.

Knowledge work, however, is fundamentally symbol manipulation in various guises. Communications and computing technologies are power tools for manipulating symbols. And, they are complex artifacts in their own right. You would no more think of writing your own word processing tool than you would think of forging your own hammer.

That does not, however, absolve you from learning how to choose and use available tools effectively.

Why is this perspective useful?

Adopting the perspective that the goal is a tailored environment and the available building blocks must be selected from what’s available sets up a tension that can be used to drive the design process.

Perhaps most importantly it provokes a recognition that simply picking tools is the least challenging task before you. That should establish an appropriate degree of skepticism about the blandishments of tool vendors and tool enthusiasts.

I took a look at this problem some time ago (Building Your Knowledge Workshop). That advice still applies. Your goal is an effective work environment, primarily for yourself. Individual tools come and go in your knowledge work environment much the same as tools accumulate and evolve in a conventional workshop. You need to grasp the work you are doing and the materials you are working with. And you need to learn what each tool can and cannot do in support of that work.

Where should you/I start?

There’s a decision to be made at the very outset of this process. It’s a choice about attitude or approach. You can elect to treat tools the way a new apartment dweller might. Get a starter set of basic tools assembled by some marketing intern at Home Depot and call the building super when you run into trouble. Or, approach the problem like a homeowner with a strong do-it-yourself bent. Investing in and learning to use professional tools for the most part. Knowing when to reach out to more experienced experts from time to time. Or, finally, you can offload your problems to a collection of experts and their tools. This increases your costs and leaves you beholden to the expertise and ethics of the experts you rely on.

I’m an advocate for the middle approach. That starts with getting a better handle on the work you do, followed by more diligently investing in learning how to use your existing tools. We don’t encourage either step in most organizational settings. Software development seems to be the only arena where practitioners routinely think about and invest in their tooling and practices.

Embrace the mess if you want to do better knowledge work

I’ve been deeply immersed in the recent profusion of new ideas, apps, and initiatives in the knowledge work  space. I’ve been working to make sense of a host of terms and concepts and discern their relevance to my own work. A partial list of those concepts (with some pointers to good entry points) includes:

There’s also a recent uptick in applications and services offering a path to implementing these ideas. These new apps are also fighting for mindshare with a set of existing apps. A very partial list (basically those apps I have experimented with or use with some regularity) includes:

Software developers, entrepreneurs, and evangelists of all stripes have to make the spine of their application, service, or approach clear and compelling. You’ve got to be a believer if you’re going to put in the time and effort to build something new. Early adopters also tend to be believers.

I tend to be an early adopter in many settings. But I’m also an old fart, so I’ve been jilted many times. Scar tissue provides perspective.

One of the drivers behind this surge in new work is the inexorable shift to knowledge work. Knowledge work is different from so much of the work that organizations have learned to manage and control. No matter what the bean-counters and compliance managers would like, knowledge work is inherently messy.

There’s a distinction in the world of early AI research that is useful in this context. The early world of AI research broke into two camps on the nature of intelligence; the “neats” and the “scruffies.” I took a look at this argument a number of years back in an earlier blog post on the realm of knowledge work–Knowledge management: the latest battle between the neats and the scruffies.

I once aspired to being a “neat”–business school is fundamentally targeted towards those who cherish and desire to impose order. The reality, linked no doubt to my ADD, is that I will always be a “scruffie.”

Fortunately, the world now aligns more closely with my “disorder.” You can’t get to “neat” without traveling through “scruffie.”

The challenge is that nearly all of the evangelizing and advice about new ideas is packaged as though that journey is over or, at least, easy. We get a “neat” picture of the destination. The journey is left as an exercise for the reader.

Even if the developers and early adopters acknowledge that there is a journey to be made, they gloss over the messy parts. If they share any details of the necessary hero’s journey, they offer just enough of the ugly parts to burnish their story. Preparing you for what you will encounter just gets in the way of the next chapters of their stories.

The absolutely essential step if you want to travel the path to being more effective as a knowledge worker is to accept that you have to walk the path for yourself. Seeking out more honest accounts of those who have traveled before you can help. Finding guides who can walk with you and help you avoid the quicksand and tar pits is even better.

But you’re still going to get dirty.

Choosing to say yes inside the organizational hairball

MacKenzie, Gordon. 1997. Orbiting the Giant Hairball : A Corporate Fool’s Guide to Surviving With Grace. US: Viking Pr.

I first encountered Gordon MacKenzie’s Orbiting the Giant Hairball during my time growing Diamond Technology Partners. I decided to revisit it recently. I’ve picked it up from time to time over the intervening 23 years (we’ll return to that notion in a bit). It wasn’t something that neatly fit my typical reading patterns. But it deals with a problem that has been central to my work. How do you reconcile creativity and organizations?

Maybe it was the image of large organizations as “hairballs.” MacKenzie’s point about larger organizations was that they accrete rules and standard operating procedures over time. Mostly, that is a good and necessary thing. You don’t want every worker on the line to decide which tires to attach to the axles today. But if you spend much time inside organizations, you learn that rules and rule-making can impose their own perverse logic. How many items in the standard operating procedures or the employee manual reduce to “never, ever, let Joe do that again?” Organizations are suspicious of creativity and people are full of it. A volatile combination.

MacKenzie worked inside Hallmark; he was a creative leader in an organization that depended on its creativity. Even there, the forces working to suppress creativity were powerful. MacKenzie puts it succinctly, ” it is not the business of authority figures to validate genius, because genius threatens authority.” His solution as he gained authority within Hallmark was appropriately creative. Genius is hard to discern before the fact. MacKenzie’s answer was to default to saying “yes.” If someone or some team approached MacKenzie with a proposal to try something, he gave them permission. He didn’t ask or worry whether he had any authority to do so. This mildly subversive act was often just enough to shake loose resources or convince others to let an experiment proceed. I adopted this strategy to good effect.

Fundamentally, Orbiting the Giant Hairball is about this tension between order and chaos. The proponents of order are loud and powerful. But the world depends on the balance between yin and yang. There are more than enough forces working against creativity in organizations; the creative spirit needs champions too.

One final observation. I pointed out at the start that I had elected to reread this provocative little book, Lately, I’ve been encountering a lot of well-argued, and certainly well-intentioned, advice about the importance of improving efficiency in processing new information. We’re assaulted with new inputs. But efficiency is the wrong metric. Managing inputs effectively should dominate efficiency. But effectiveness is much harder to assess. Many items on my reading list are worth no more than a single reading; some turn out to not be worth that. But the other tail of the distribution also matters. Certain books yield new insights when you revisit them with further experience. Don’t let a quest for temporary efficiencies block access to that additional value.

Building knowledge work toolsets

Swiss Army KnifeI first encountered the notion of “affordances” in Don Norman’s excellent The Psychology of Everyday Things (which was renamed The Design of Everyday Things a couple of years later).  From the world of design, an “affordance” is a characteristic of an object that offers clues about how to use or interact with that object; the design of a chair tells us it is something for sitting on, a pitcher is for holding and pouring things. Affordances can be difficult to design in a world of more complex physical objects; they can be nigh on impossible in the design of software tools and applications. One of the things that made early computer systems so confounding was that they offered no affordances to latch onto. Graphical user interfaces were a huge step forward in making software user friendly (or at least not overtly user hostile).

Affordances and the design thinking that goes into crafting good ones are rooted in the physical world; dexterity, reach, visual acuity, strength, all factor in to design. This is the world of ergonomics or human factors. Transferring that knowledge to the abstract world of software and the objects in our environment with significant software elements is no simple task. You need only think of the remote control for your DVR and set top box or the user interface of your bank’s ATM to appreciate how difficult this design work can be.

One failure (limitation?) of modern application design is affordances that run out of steam before users grasp the full capabilities of an application. If all chairs looked like a Shaker chair, how would we ever figure out what to do with a BarcaLounger; or the pilot’s cockpit seat in an F-16? The menus and window layouts of your typical desktop application (Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Outlook) get everyone up and running quickly, but they do nothing to hint at, much less reveal, any deeper capabilities or opportunities. So, for most users, most of the time, those opportunities go unrecognized and the capabilities never get exercised.

What separates power users from the rest of us, then, is a willingness to dig into users manuals (RTFM as a career advancement strategy) and to experiment and play with their tools to figure out what is possible. Otherwise smart people take marketing hype about “easy and intuitive” software seriously and judge themselves deficient when good software tools are often neither. The opportunity wasted is tremendously sad.

So, what do we do to help more people get more value out of their software? My specific interests happen to be about knowledge work. What can we do to help knowledge workers push their tools farther and better? Put another way, why do we settle for knowledge workers leveraging such limited subsets of the tools they already use or avoiding tools or techniques that might unlock significant new insights and outputs?

Although I’ve been talking about affordances I don’t think the blame or the answer lies exclusively with software designers. More realistic claims from software marketers wouldn’t hurt although I’m not holding my breath. As software users, one thing we can do is invest time to suss out more of the design models in the heads of the software developers who build the tools we are seeking to leverage.

Word processing software offers examples of what I’m thinking about.

Microsoft Word is likely the dominant word processor on the planet. You can find it installed on most any desktop or laptop computer you encounter. It ushered in the world of WYSIWYG computing where one goal of the interface was to represent your work in as close to final form as possible. Implicit in that design was that the “final form” was a printed page.

A consequence of that design choice was that you now had one tool that spanned what had once been a series of discrete stages in the process of bringing an idea to the printed page. Writing, editing, design, and layout are quite different cognitive activities. In a pre-WYSIWYG world, each of these steps had its own set of professionals, its own set of standards and practices, and its own set of tools. With Word you now have a single tool that can serve at all stages (at least for 80% of cases).

Whether that is a good thing is another question. Having one tool makes it more difficult to see that the activities in each stage are quite different. When you’re working out the structure of an argument, there’s little point to be worrying about what typeface and font size works best for a section heading. But a single tool blurs that distinction and boundary. You can be enticed into playing with those problems or thinking they are important to deal with now while your fundamental argument or storyline is still a mess.

A tool that is suitable across all these steps may be valuable within an organization. But at the price of obscuring the differences between different process stages. You could manage that problem if you made an effort to make the different stages of the process more explicit. But now the organization and its people need to work at cross purposes to the tools. You have a single tool obscuring the differences in the process while you try to highlight those same differences as you manage the development and evolution of any particular deliverable.

Scrivener is a popular word processing tool, especially among authors dealing with longer form writing projects. Its user experience embodies a very different model of the writing process than Microsoft Word. Scrivener makes the various stages of writing–drafting, editing, design, layout–visible and identifiable in its user interface. In particular, WYSIWYG is a secondary or even tertiary goal in the user experience.

Moreover, Scrivener was designed in a time when the printed page is only one of many target forms for final deliverables. It also supports multiple formats for electronic books, PDF files, and the web. To that end, the design of Scrivener separates the activities for structuring a draft output from formatting it for final output.

For users accustomed to the WYSIWYG model embodied in Microsoft Word this is a source of frequent confusion. Learning how to invoke specific functions and features in Scrivener isn’t terribly helpful until new users grasp the fundamentally different process model embedded in the design of the application.

Software marketers don’t like to acknowledge that software users require multiple individual software tools to handle the complexities of modern knowledge work.It is not their job to figure out how to fit multiple tools together to get work done.

This is an element of your job description that hasn’t been acknowledged or addressed in the average organization. You will likely be issued a starter set of basic tools. But don’t expect useful guidance on how to use them in concert to accomplish the work expected of you. It is yours if you hope to be an effective knowledge worker.

Review – Intertwingled: Information Changes Everything

Image of Intertwingled CoverMorville, Peter. 2014. Intertwingled: Information Changes Everything. US: Semantic Studios.

Intertwingled is not a practical book. It is not intended to be. Unfortunately, that will discourage those who could most benefit from its message and perspective. It’s an extended reflection by its author, Peter Morville, on the deep challenges of making information more easily accessible and impactful within organizations. Morville has written several of the essential books in the world of information design and architecture (Information Architecture,  Ambient Findability). Intertwingled is a more reflective exercise; an attempt to pick a broader vantage point on understanding both the technological and organizational environments we inhabit. Morville opens with an observation from Ted Nelson:

People keep pretending they can make things hierarchical, categorizable, and sequential when they can’t. Everything is deeply intertwingled.  – Theodor Holm Nelson

I’ve never been a huge fan of the term “intertwingled” – probably because I am generally suspicious of coining “cute” new terms. Ted Nelson, on the other hand, seems drawn to the practice. Nelson’s books, Computer Lib/Dream Machines and Literary Machines, were hugely influential in luring me into the field and Morville seems to have been similarly enticed.

I don’t think Morville makes me any more comfortable with the term, but the book and his arguments and observations are still  worth the time.

It’s beyond cliche that we live in an information economy. It’s easy to be distracted by the shiny stuff– apps, devices,  platforms, technology. Morville’s focus is on the peculiar notion of information. Information is a surprisingly slippery term and we are all well served by efforts such as Intertwingled that make us think about that slipperiness. Morville observes that

Access to massive amounts of conflicting information from myriad sources creates filter failure. We don’t know what to believe. So we fall back on simple ways of knowing. We trust experts and those in authority. We follow doctor’s orders. Or we reject expertise completely.

Lately, it seems that rejection has become the go to strategy in many settings. This is not, in fact, a new problem. Morville, for example, offers the following observation from computer scientist Calvin Mooers published in 1959:

Many people may not want information, and they will avoid using a system precisely because it gives them information. Having information is painful and troublesome. We have all experienced this. If you have information, you must first read it, which is not always easy. You must then try to understand it. Understanding the information may show that your work was wrong, or may show that your work was needless. Thus not having and not using information can often lead to less trouble and pain.

Morville’s goal with Intertwingled is to make you think. He succeeds admirably. Enough so that this will be a book I expect to return to.

Competitive strategy and market failures

Mike Porter's 5-forces modelI finished my MBA 40 years ago. Courtesy of the current pandemic, I won’t be having the reunion I was looking forward to. But, I have been thinking back to lessons from those days.

One of the hottest courses my second year was “Industry and Competitive Analysis.” Professor Mike Porter was putting the final touches on what would become Competitive Strategy : Techniques for Analyzing Industries and Competitors and we were the beta testers for what would become the bible of corporate strategy. Because Harvard is committed to the case method, there wasn’t much explicit discussion of theory as theory. You absorbed the theoretical essentials in the course of applying the tools and techniques to the case examples.

Fast forward several years. I’ve left the world of consulting and come back to school one more time. I’m now writing cases instead of reading them. And I’m soaking up formal theory in multiple subjects. One of the courses I take is a course in Industrial Economics from Richard Caves. Industrial Economics is the study of markets and competition from an economist’s perspective. Caves was Porter’s thesis advisor when Porter was getting his Ph.D.

When economists study markets and competition, their driving question is “why do markets fail?” Economists believe in markets and their theories presume perfect competition. Deviations from perfect competition are anomalies to be understood and explained. What gets in the way of the theoretical ideal of Adam Smith where sellers compete on price and features to meet the needs of well-informed buyers. The catalog of things that cause markets to be less than perfectly competitive is long: monopoly power, monopsony power, barriers to entry, barriers to exit, price fixing, collusion, are only a partial list. Economists then seek potential solutions to prevent or eliminate these sources of market failure.

Midway through the course it dawns on me. Porter’s genius in competitive strategy is to recognize that an economist’s market failure is a CEO’s strategic coup. Your goal as a CEO is pick your markets and shape your organization’s behaviors to maximize the probabilities of market failures that work in your favor. I’ve found that to be a very powerful lens for understanding how business strategy plays out in practice.

Learning to See-Improving Knowledge Work Capabilities

My wife is a photographer. Quite a good one, in fact. One sure way to annoy her is to ask what kind of camera she uses after admiring one of her photos.. It’s her eye, not the camera, that recognizes the perfect shot. The tool may well be the least important element in the mix.

My own photography has gotten better courtesy of time spent in apprentice mode by her side. Photography is also an example of a knowledge work capability that can shed light on performance improvement in a knowledge context. The primary performance metric is whether you can capture the image you envision. Secondary metrics might include meeting time, budget, and other constraints on the image. In some settings, you may also need to be able to articulate the logic for why the image you eventually capture meets the criteria set.

If your goal, for example, is to capture a simple selfie to demonstrate that you were there at Mt. Rushmore, anything with both you and the mountain in frame and in focus will suffice. As you goals evolve, you also acquire new concepts and vocabulary; composition, depth of field, light conditions, focal length. exposure.

Meeting those goals may lead you to exploring and adopting new tools. A better camera might well enable you to capture images that weren’t possible with starter tools. But the functions and features of more sophisticated tools might just as well not exist if you don’t have the corresponding concepts to work with.

These concepts and the tools all need to be in service to creating the images you imagine. You don’t learn them in theory or in isolation. You learn them by doing the work and getting feedback. Over time, you also learn to give yourself better feedback.

Ira Glass has an excellent series of short videos on storytelling that fit here and fit knowledge work in general. The whole series is worth your time and attention–Ira Glass on Storytelling – This American Life. The nut graf, however, is something to keep close at hand as you work at your craft:

Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.

There is craft behind all knowledge work. You get better at craft work by being intentional about getting better. And by accepting that craft lies in the mix of tools, techniques, practices, mentors, and peers. It’s a mistake to remain wed to the first tool you pick up, It’s equally a mistake to confuse changing tools with improving your craft.

Working in the boundaries – making the pieces fit together

“Specialization is for insects” Robert A. Heinlein

Between can be a difficult location. Cast or crew. Analog or digital. Quant or sales. Worker bee or management. Head or heart.

If you choose to reject the standard either/or logic and opt to stake out territory at a boundary or junction, the most likely result is ridicule and rejection. No matter how continuous reality may be, we insist on carving it up.

When I first moved out of the tech crew and into the stage manager’s shoes, I thought I was taking a small step. What I was doing was choosing to live in a DMZ. I became the referee when the lighting director and the choreographer both wanted the stage at the same time.

There was a time in one especially difficult production when I had had it with both the Producer and the Director. I can’t even remember what the argument was about. I left a note in the office that I was going back to school and they could finish the show without me.

A friend in the cast found me ten hours later in the one place I figured no one would think to look. I was in the third subbasement of the university library. Probably the first time I had set foot there since September and it was now March. I was coaxed into going back to the production, after apologies from the Producer and Director.

This was the earliest incident I can recall working to reconcile conflicting perspectives and demands to pull off a vision. Carpenters wanted to build, electricians wanted to light, dancers wanted to stretch, and actors wanted to run lines. All of it had to come together for the curtain to go up on opening night.

Over time, my interests have migrated to how to balance technology opportunities and organizational limits. But the reluctance of most to look outside the boundaries of their playgrounds remains. My head likes the challenge of figuring out the differing sets of details and their interactions.

Most players pick a side. They choose to belong to one organizational clan or the other. They commit to being management or to being a machine learning expert. Fewer choose to work as simultaneous translators; to learning the language and theories of new technology and of deep strategy.

Our systems are built around slotting people into speciality roles. What often gets lost is that someone has to work at being the glue fitting key elements together.