Peter Drucker, the world renowned management consultant, educator and author, is credited with introducing the concept of “knowledge worker”.
This term has been debated and argued about for decades now and has many diverse definitions.
However, generally the term is used to describe people at all levels whose work involves problem-solving, analysis and decision-making.
Research indicates that “knowledge workers” in the main are the ones that come up with new ideas around innovation, new processes, new ways of working, new products, services and so on.
Research also points to two main skills of a “knowledge worker” – effective communication and thinking skills.
“Is that not all or most of us?” I hear you say.
When I think about it, if you were to take a walk around most of todays business premises, I would suggest that you will find a “knowledge worker” at most desks, huddled around meeting tables, on calls to customers, chatting at the water dispenser, talking in the corridors, in discussions with bosses and colleagues – it seems most of us are indeed employed to be that “knowledge worker”.
Without getting involved in a deeper debate as to what or who a “knowledge worker” is, I am comfortable with the concept of that type of person needing to be an effective communicator and also possess excellent thinking skills.
In my opinion thinking is one of the life-skills which is central to being an effective worker-contributor, regardless of vocation or role. We could include skills associated with processing information and data under the “thinking skills” umbrella.
Adapting a model published by Latimer and Noble, 1996, I have mapped out some of those thinking and information-processing skills and how they can apply in a practical sense…
If we were to reflect on the above skills and match them against the skill requirements for our own roles, key responsibilities and functions, and if we were to consider for a moment the practical day-to-day application of these skills (as indicated in the map above), I dare say we would be ticking a lot of them off as applicable to us personally.
At this point there are 3 key issues beginning to emerge for me:
1. Surely we should be seeking to recognise the thinking skills we have and map them against the ones we need to fulfil our role and responsibilities?
2. Should we not be open and honest (and dare I say realistic?) about identifying skill gaps and opportunities to improve on those thinking skills?
3. We need to equip ourselves with strategies, tools and techniques to ensure we utilise those thinking skills to optimum effect
Entering into a fuller discussion on the above aspects would necessitate more editorial space and more of the readers’ time to read and digest (I simply cannot afford either luxury!), so allow me to touch briefly on the latter aspect – tools and techniques for equipping us as “knowledge workers” to deploy our thinking and information processing skills to best effect.
To qualify “best effect” – to contribute to “Know / Comprehend / Apply / Analyse / Synthesise / Evaluate” processes (above) in ways that increase efficiency, effectiveness and productivity within our own role and our overall contribution.
If the experience of using mind mapping in business and education contexts (not to mention the many years of experience of helping clients in a variety of disciplines) has taught me anything, it is an impressive proven methodology for enabling, improving and boosting the thinking processes.
I have heard the “excuses” of “I don’t think that way”, I’ve been tackled on the “right brain v left brain” concepts, I’ve even had the “mind mapping is for geeks” joke….
However, for me, if we open our minds, put age-old preconceptions or misconceptions to one side, what business mind mapping, specifically mind mapping software (such as MindGenius) offers, is an intuitive, creative, and highly visual “virtual whiteboard” to capture your thinking. This is explicitly our thinking around any topic, initiative, plan, problem, opportunity, project and any other daily task or activity requiring clarity and focus in the all-important upfront thinking stage.
Also, it is about adopting a platform that allows you to drill into sufficient detail, see patterns, themes and linkages, gain better understanding and give you a springboard to better prioritisation and well-informed decision making.
Even if we took advantage of this increased efficiency and productivity just for the upfront thinking stage, it is also worth highlighting that modern business mind mapping tools then propel our thinking into other productive outputs – prioritised plans, task management, project scheduling and reporting, documents and reports, presentations and so on.
It is no wonder that millions of people globally are taking advantage of business mind mapping and giving themselves a considerable edge over those sticking to alternative, manual, static and less creative traditional methodologies.
You may be thinking that I’m labouring this point, but just consider for a moment how something so natural, so organic, so taken for granted – the thinking process – can sometimes be the very rock on which problems, solutions, innovation, and even the way we communicate with others, founder and break up on.
I wonder if it’s because we don’t take the thinking process seriously enough?
I wonder if it’s because we think we can be heroes all the time by getting to solutions and finishing work and projects quicker?
I just wonder if sometimes we could have prevented errors, mistakes, broken promises, failed deadlines, etc, just by taking time to “think things through thoroughly”?
To be that well-rounded, truly effective “knowledge worker”, we must seriously consider adopting such a proven and specifically-designed “toolkit” to help us really improve the way we apply our thinking – business mind mapping – think about it!