Tool-and-Die Makers in a Knowledge Economy

In one of my columns at Enterprise Systems Journal, I started to explore a nagging concern about why organizations have realized less of the potential of technology to support knowledge work than they could. In a nutshell, my hypothesis is that most organizations have not thought through what organizational roles need to be created to best leverage the technology. In my column I made the argument that we need the knowledge economy equivalent of tool-and-die makers. You can find the full column at ESJ:

Tool-and-Die Makers in a Knowledge Economy

The full potential of tools to support knowledge work remains unrealized

Given the near total independence that most knowledge workers have in organizations, they have been largely left to their own devices in figuring out how to take best advantage of the technology tools we have made available.  That leads to a great deal of wasted potential. Here’s the way I described it in the column:

Applying the tool-and-die maker strategy, knowledge organizations should identify individuals particularly adept at applying tool and technology features to simplifying their own work and give them a new goal of improving the productivity and effectiveness of their knowledge-work colleagues. The knowledge work of these “toolsmiths” would be to understand the knowledge work of others and apply Taylor’s principles of scientific management; to observe how knowledge workers currently worked and to identify, design, and deploy new tools and techniques to make it possible to perform the same work with less effort or produce better-quality deliverables on demand

Essentially, we are missing an opportunity for knowledge work productivity by not taking full advantage of designing organizational roles to take full advantage of the strengths and weaknesses of individual knowledge workers.

One thought on “Tool-and-Die Makers in a Knowledge Economy”

  1. I agree. In the research lab I work in, we’ve talked about the value of having a programming/AI “machine shop” that makes one-off (or slightly customized) tools for the work. In fact, it’s one area I would particularly enjoy.

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