Patterns of Knowledge Work

I think I found out, that there are patterns of knowledge work. What do I mean? I mean that knowledge work – although it does not follow prescribed instructions – sometimes follows certain patterns. These patterns are not strict, but they occur once in a while.

One example I discuss in my chapter “Improving Knowledge Work” in the book “Mastering the Unpredictable“. There I have two cases, one for mitigating a “call forwarding” problem with a telephone system and another for mitigating a problem in which case only 64 phones work for the system. Both cases are solved differently, but both require an update of the documentation of the phone system. So in order to work more efficiently the sub-parts of the cases are merged into a new case that has the goal to update the documentation.

This – in my opinion – is one pattern of knowledge work: the repackaging of parts of cases into a new case. But as I think I found out there are more. There is a whole list of these that I made in the meanwhile. I did not yet publish these in the book, because space was limited and because in part I found them later.

How did I find them? I did not do a scientific analysis, I admit. This may be interesting though. If anyone of you wants to write a master thesis or a PhD thesis, I think this is a very interesting topic to do a scientific analysis. I had three sources for it:

  1. Managing my own knowledge work. As I wrote my own Adaptive Case Management system for my own knowledge work, I was able to organize my own work. As the number of cases increase – 3000 now including sub-cases – I become aware of patterns.
  2. Feedback from my first pilot. This was very interesting, because the main focus for my pilot is usability. Usability is strongly interwoven with these patterns of knowledge work.
  3. The things I always wanted to model, but never was able to. I governed the modeling of thousands of models of structured processes from all areas of business processes. But because the modeling language was only able to model predictable processes, I never was able to model unpredictable processes.

Why do I think these patterns are important? What I am currently trying to do is to optimize the usability of my ACM system for these patterns. That is much more than tweaking the user interface. I follow the idea of design thinking. My goal is to design the system – all of its part – to fluently support the patterns of knowledge work. This affects the user interface – yes – but also the interaction design, the business logic, the database access, the transaction handling, the meta model and the meta meta model – if some of you are interested in that level of detail. In other words it affects the design and architecture of the whole system. My goal is to optimize the complete system architecture to best support these patterns of knowledge work, so that the work will be very fluent.

As with all knowledge work the result of my effort is not completely predictable. But I am making good progress.

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