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 noise than signal, 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 my 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.

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