This is a wonderful quote from Holger Nauheimer and backed up by fact. As far back as 2002, an investigation into our work patterns by the Giga Information Group led to the conclusion that no more than 20% of our work is mechanistic and repeatable. Not only is the other 80% fuelled by enthusiasm, passion and dialogue but it is also based on that funny stuff we keep in our heads - ideas, knowledge, acquired skills and personal preferences. It is in our heads, scribbled on the odd note and spread across the multitude of apps we store on our devices.
Worse - it is increasing at an alarming rate. A recent study, conducted by researchers at the University of California-San Diego, found that on average each person is inundated with the equivalent of 34 Gb of information each day. In other words in a single day we take on enough information to overload the average hard drive. American psychiatrist Edward Hallowell stated that “never in human history, our brains had to work so much information as today." Our thinking is affected, our focus is continually hampered and we struggle with a whole range of mental tasks from reflection to deep thought.
With all that information flooding in, you might expect we should all have permanent brain ache. And you would be right. According to Medscape, headaches account for 1-4% of all emergency department registrations and are the ninth most common reason for a patient to consult a physician. Tension-type headaches - the type expected to be caused by data stress - affect approximately 1.4 billion people. That's over 20% of the population.
So aside from building the world's largest stock of paracetamol, or paddling away to the solitude of a deserted island what can we do about this? By that I mean what can we do practically, every day, whilst at work? How can we remove the clutter from our brain and put it somewhere else where it can be easily accessed, retrieved and understood?
One option is to use the Richard Branson method of always carrying a black book (in his case probably Moleskin) in which to capture our fleeting ideas. That's fine for, well, a fleeting idea and is quite often the starting point for much else. Sharing might pose a problem as might clarity (depending on the way we write or draw) but this does have the advantage of being quick and easy.
But what about the more difficult stuff we all do unconsciously but often brilliantly: the practical application of the knowledge and skills we have acquired over our umpteen years on this Earth. That stuff requires a bit more structure and thus some tools to help with that. At the simplest level we might draw diagrams or mind maps in which case we have pen, paper and mind mapping software. At the more complex level we might draw processes and then try to communicate those to our peers and colleagues. Often that too is difficult because we all have different ways of writing them, using different protocols and symbols. What's the point of capturing difficult-to-capture knowledge if no one else can understand what you've written? Clarity and comprehensibility is the key. It also makes it much quicker to dump this pesky data out of our heads. The simpler the approach, the easier and quicker it is to write. But that is a lesson we all-too-often forget. BPMN 2 anyone?
Or you could take what one of our clients refers to as the 'Fred in the Shed' approach. In that instance you sit bolt upright in the depths of night; leap out of bed and run harem scarem to your shed where of course you already have the stock of several B&Qs waiting for you to just bend them into shape. Building the weirdest, wackiest device might put Heath Robinson to shame and might be great fun to do, but what then? What happens the next day when you proudly present your astonishing invention to your bemused colleagues?
I know which route I would prefer.
Most of today's work is not mechanistic and repeatable ..... Instead it ...is based on thinking and fueled by enthusiasm, passion & dialogue.