Effective Knowledge Work Environments Start From Design

Like yours, I suspect, my inbox is littered with a steady stream of pitches. A few are even from sources I’ve given permission to contact me. Nearly all follow a standard formula (except for the ones promising to teach me that formula); they describe some imagined pain I am experiencing and promise that their product/service/”proven system” will eliminate my pain and bring me joy/riches/satisfaction/relief. All for the low, low, price of “click here” to dive deeper into their sales funnel.

Makes buying a used car a veritable day at the beach.

If you’re in the market for diapers, a new pair of shoes, or that used car, this strategy is annoying but it does work. It’s also rooted in a set of assumptions that conflict with the assumptions necessary to carry out competent and effective knowledge work.

These pitches are “connecting the dots” thinking applied to “solving for pattern” problems. Ignoring that distinction may tempt you into parting with your money in exchange for things that address your problems only by accident. In a connecting the dots world, problem solving is a selection process. In a solving for pattern world, it’s a design process.

For knowledge problems there are no off-the-shelf solutions that you can simply buy. There are no proven systems to adopt and roll out. The best you can hope for is good guidance on how to tailor available tools and practices to your unique circumstances.

Step 0 is recognizing that you have to start with design. Hard to evaluate prospective solutions until you’ve developed a deep understanding and appreciation of the problem at your hand. We are so accustomed to being offered answers that it is too easy, and tempting, to forget that you need to start from a well-articulated question.

One thought on “Effective Knowledge Work Environments Start From Design”

  1. Framing the question is often the hardest part of any quest! Some questions might be very broad – “Why does water dissolve so many things?” Some can be narrower – “Why does water flow downhill?”
    As the Cheshire Cat almost said, “If you don’t know where you are going then it doesn’t matter which way you go.”
    How to frame the question – aye there’s the rub!

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