How can you be a knowledge worker if you’re not allowed to pick your own tools?
In the unattained summit of social business, Ton Zylstra writes:
So we talked about how corporate systems might integrate social media tools into sharepoint and ERP-software, but not about the notion that it is quickly becoming ridiculous that IT departments should be prescribing what tools professionals should use at all, and not just stick to managing and securing the data flowing through those tools. We let craftsmen and artisans pick the tools they think fit the task at hand and their personal skills best, but we still don’t allow our professionals in knowledge intensive environments to do so.
I like the term Knowledge Artisan to describe this growing field of economic activity. An artisan is a skilled worker in a particular craft, using specialized tools and machinery. Artisans were the dominant producers of goods before the Industrial era. Knowledge Artisans are retrieving the older artisan model and re-integrating previously separate skills. Knowledge Artisans not only design the work but they can do the work. It is not passed down the assembly line. Many integrate marketing, sales and customer service with their creations. To ensure that they stay current, they become members of various Guilds, known today as communities of practice or knowledge networks. One of the earliest guilds was the open source community which developed many of the communication tools and processes used by Knowledge Artisans today: distributed work (CSCW); results-oriented work (your code speaks for you); RSS, blogs, wikis, flattened hierarchies, etc.
One problem today is that it’s hard to be a Knowledge Artisan in a hierarchical organization that tells you what to do and which tools to use. No wonder the more experienced and adventurous are leaving and the younger skilled artisans are not joining the Command & Control Industrial Organization.