Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Davenport: Thinking For A Living

I just got an advance review copy of a new book by Tom Davenport who is the super brainy swell professor and author and particularly engaging speaker who was at Accenture and now at Babson. He officially, holds "the President's Chair in Information Technology and Management at Babson College."

I know his book will be a must-read.

But I have to take a minute and reflect on the subtitle however:

Thinking for a Living: How to Get Better Performance and Results from Knowledge Workers.

Hmmm ... we Knowledge Workers are honestly a pretty lazy crew.

How to get us to perform better ... well, I hope Professor Davenport goes the whole nine yards and suggests that sometimes we need a swift kick in the pants.

In my case, my performance is always improved if you buy me new shoes and lots of red Australian licorice.

The shoes can be black or red, even pink, but the licorice must be red. (You may notice on Amazon they are currently OUT of red licorice and I have to admit I may have something to do with this licorice trade deficit between the two countries.)

My performance is also improved by frequent trips to Starbucks for Chai Latte.

Knowledge Workers like worker bees do well when they have a Queen Bee to visit and hang out with. I'm willing to play the role of Queen Bee twice a year for a week's duration if needed. It's easy, you just act friendly and say, "God, you guys are brilliant!"

Professor Davenport did a study in 2002 about the best physical environment for Knowledge Workers with his colleagues at Accenture Bob Thomas and Sue Cantrell. I could have saved them a lot of time, the best physical environment for knowledge workers is of course, bed.

Davenport finally puts to rest the myth of the foosball table:
At least there is no evidence that anyone ever took a job, stayed at a job, or worked more productively because of foosball, pool, or ping-pong tables ...

But wait a minute ... he continues ...
cappuccino bars, office concierges, hearths, conversation pits, quiet rooms, lactation rooms, creativity rooms, relaxation rooms, nap rooms, etc.

I have to disagree. I know a lot of guys who were much more productive knowing they were three doors down from the lactation room.

The best part of the book ... and I'm really trying to be serious here for a few nanoseconds ... is how Davenport groks that knowledge workers are a barrelful of Curious George-like monkeys. We want to know everything, know everyone and learn anything and everything 24x7. We are nosy in the extreme and have big networks of contacts and need to connect connect connect to them. He has documented our Network Nosiness very well. The worst thing you can do to a knowledge worker is take his network away from him or tell him "You're Grounded -- No More Google For YOU!!!"

I love the essentially flawed assumption his book makes -- that you can actually MANAGE KNOWLEDGE WORKERS -- because I can't think of a more unmanageable bunch. But if anyone has cracked the code, Tom Davenport's the man, so shove your money across the counter to the cashier at the book store and get this one.