A knowledge worker’s toolkit needs to be well-rounded
Like a carpenter, certain tools are needed for certain situations.
Sometimes you need a hammer and nail, other times a chisel. Sometimes a table saw and other times a framing square. Sometimes glue and other times a sander. Each tool has its distinct purpose.
Similar to craftspeople and their expertise in approaching challenges, experienced gardeners know to nourish the soil, not the crop. Healthy soil equals healthy plants. In knowledge work this could be positioned as “nourish the system, not the outcome.”
As knowledge workers we too have collections of tools for various jobs. Our toolkits are made of digital tools, many of which fit specific use cases, though in the 2020’s we’re increasingly seeing attempts at “one tool fits all” product development. Tools for managing information overload and improving how we think are on the rise, and digital tools and apps have become core to our lives both as knowledge workers and citizens of the digital age.
Sometimes one specific tool is better for a job than another. It all depends on the needs of the use case at hand. Example needs might include:
- Capturing thoughts
- Processing tasks
- Cataloging knowledge
- Writing ideas
- Referencing data and quotes
- Sparking creativity
- Collaborating with others
Perhaps this is my way of justifying the many tools in my digital ecosystem, despite knowing simplicity is better. While often true, knowledge work is complex and full of intricacy. Sometimes we need inspiration, other times we need data. Sometimes we need to revisit and tend to our past ideas, other times we need to capture new ones. It’s at the nexus of these needs and complexities where digital ecosystems reside.
Just like the soil on a farm, your digital ecosystem can either be healthy and lead to a bountiful harvest, or can be devoid of all nutrients and produce little to nothing of value. It all depends on where you focus your efforts.
Systems are a critical part of knowledge work but most people rarely, if ever, think about the systems they use let alone put in the time and effort to design better ones. Mostly people adopt tools as needed and without intention or concern for the larger ecosystem.
Just as journey maps are tools not outcomes, the tools you use to do your work are exactly that: tools. They are not the outcome you’re looking for, so be sure to choose them wisely but focus on what really matters: delivering quality work.
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