First derivative, knowledge workers and PhD
Jim McGee makes my day. The morning started with his pointer to Career Calculus by Eric Sink. I loved this piece. It's about simple formula behind someone's career:
Cluefulness = Gifting + Learning*Time
And as Eric notes, "your career success is determined by three variables, only one of which you can control". It's not about how smart you are, it's about the speed of learning. The first derivative.
Two small pieces:
...We want learning to be a process, not an event. Making your first derivative constantly positive is not just about formal training. It is a posture which you bring to your job each day. It is a posture of teachability, a constant willingness to learn.
...The best learning occurs when we choose to process a mistake with a mentor or peer. Unfortunately, this goes against our natural tendency. When we foul something up, the last thing we want to do is shine a light on it so everyone can see what a bonehead we are. What we really want to do is cover it up and hope nobody notices. But in doing so we miss a huge opportunity to increase our cluefulness.
That was a good start. Then I scrolled a bit and found From managing knowledge to coaching knowledge workers:
The fatal flaw in thinking in terms of knowledge management is in adopting the perspective of the organization as the relevant beneficiary. Discussions of knowledge management start from the premise that the organization is not realizing full value from the knowledge of its employees. While likely true, this fails to address the much more important question from a knowledge worker's perspective of What's in it for me?. It attempts to squeeze the knowledge management problem into an industrial framework eliminating that which makes the deliverables of knowledge work most valuable--their uniqueness, their variability. This industrial, standardizing, perspective provokes suspicion and both overt and covert resistance. It also starts a cycle of controls, incentives, rewards, and punishments to elicit what once were natural behaviors.
[...]Our goal is to make it easier for a knowledge worker to create and share unique results. Instead of specifying a standard output to be created and the standardized steps to create that output, we need to start with more modest goals. I've written about this before (see Is knowledge work improvable?, Sharing knowledge with yourself, and Knowledge work as craft). In general terms, I advocate attacking friction, noise, and other barriers to doing good knowledge work.
This approach also leads you to a strategy of coaching knowledge workers toward improving their ability to perform, instead of training them to a set standard of performance.
These two posts got me out my "I'm lost in my PhD" mood. I'm still lost, but now I see the light :)