Book Review: Thinking for a Living

Thinking for a Living by Tom Davenport is a book that focuses on increasing productivity for “information workers”. I’ve been focused on knowledge management for several years so I found the book to be an interesting collection of best practices. I’m generally more focused on technology workers, but this book casts a wide net for producers, distributors and consumers on information and knowledge on the job.

This book is focused on managers who are responsible for improving the productivity of these workers. In reading this book, it seemed to describe a tension between a “hands-off” approach to allow workers maximum flexibility to a more industrial approach (but never too heavy) to introduce some process and collaboration into the workstream. I found both arguments to have merit and really require managers to consider their specific case.

An interesting corollary to the techniques in the book is that smaller firms and teams will be able to have looser processes due to lower communication and coordination overhead. I believe this is the inevitable march of industrialized firms. Not to grow larger like GM or AIG (straw man argument ahead) but to grow smaller and stay “adolescent”. This allows them to operate in a “startup” mentaility longer and avoid carrying needless costs.

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