Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Knowledge is power

It is often said that we live in the information age: anything you need to know is just a click away. At the same time, we have a knowledge economy: so called knowledge workers are amongst the highest paid people. Surely there is a contradiction here? If everything you need to know is easy to find, then why do you need people whose work, and whose worth, is based on knowing things?

The difference is best illustrated by the old story of the engineer, called out of retirement to examine a troublesome machine. After considering it for a while, he marks a chalk 'X' on the faulty part, and submits a bill for $10,000. When asked for a breakdown of this amount, he provides the following: "$1 for the chalk mark; $9,999 for knowing where to put it". The bill is paid without further question.

The hardest thing that I ever do is to think properly. Make that second hardest - the hardest is to get someone else to think. That's why I like the Schopenhauer quote that I use from time to time: "The task is not to see what nobody else has seen. It is rather to see what everybody else has seen, and think what nobody else has thought." So what? Well, my core point is that you cannot get experience from google, nor can you get innovation from a book. By using individuals who know their stuff, you tap into their knowledge, yes, but also their perspective and imagination. Someone who has been around the block a few times will see things that others don't, and will recognise when to apply a process and when to look for something new. Methodologies are useless when the situation is unique.

This is the kind of work I want to do: a difficult problem that needs a great solution. If you've got this, then call me!