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Only one in five knowledge workers consistently finds the information needed to do their jobs. This happens to “knowledge customers,” too, half of whom bail before completing online orders. Other studies have found that knowledge workers spend more time r
What would you think of an assembly line where workers didn’t know where to find the parts they were supposed to attach? “Hey! Anybody see any fenders?”
Absurd, you say. Heads would roll. Yet for knowledge workers, this is routine. Consider a knowledge worker stymied by a lack of information—hardly an uncommon situation. In fact, in many professions, knowledge workers spend a third of their time looking for answers and helping their colleagues do the same.
How does our knowledge worker respond? She’s five times more likely to turn to another person than to an impersonal source, such as a database or a file cabinet. Often she asks whoever happens to be close by, the denizen of the next cube or someone getting a cup of coffee. Half the time, this person doesn’t have a clue. This is like the guy searching for his keys under the streetlight because the light is better there than in the place he thinks he lost them.
Only one in five knowledge workers consistently finds the information needed to do their jobs. This happens to “knowledge customers,” too, half of whom bail before completing online orders. Other studies have found that knowledge workers spend more time re-creating existing information they were unaware of than creating original material.
All this slows the pace of the enterprise, burns out the workforce with scut work, reduces responsiveness to customers and increases job dissatisfaction. Reinventing the wheel, looking for information in the wrong places and answering questions of their peers consumes two-thirds of the average knowledge worker’s time. Slashing this waste time provides a lot more time to devote to improving the business, a massive reduction in payroll or, more likely, a bit of both.
This knowledge productivity problem is destined to get worse before it gets better. The haystack is getting bigger exponentially. Corporate information doubles in volume every 18 months. Half of the recorded information in the entire world has been created in the past five years!
Specialists used to keep their heads above the floodtide of incoming knowledge by knowing “more and more about less and less.” In today’s interconnected world, boundaries between disciplines are becoming porous. To understand organization development, you need to know biology. Everything’s multidisciplinary; we have to know more and more about more and more.
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