Knowledge Work

Ryan Holiday had the above podcast episode with Cal Newport for the Daily Stoic podcast. While both practitioners shared their ideas of how they practiced their crafts, I especially liked the part where they spoke about knowledge work.

I consider what I do as knowledge work.

Cal shares that Peter Drucker defined knowledge work in the 1950s. Since then, he says not much has changed. Workers are given a task and are then left alone to do their task. The organisation does not interfere in the performance of this task.

He suggests that probably knowledge work may improve with the involvement of the organisation. He suggests that NBA and NFL teams in the US do this much better. They know what they want to get out of a player in terms of his personal performance, his team’s performance in the game and in the league.

On improving our own knowledge work, Cal suggests that we do lifestyle-centric career planning. This involves first understanding the type of lifestyle we would like to lead and then select a career accordingly for best results. For the first two years of one’s career, he suggests not letting anything fall through the cracks. This makes sure that managers stay out of the way and gives the knowledge worker more autonomy.

Another snippet that I liked in their conversation is how Cal approaches a new idea. He says that knowledge work involves a lot of thinking and the present day has no slack for this very important part of a knowledge worker’s work. He builds the idea by thinking about it, talking to others and writing about it. This progression places more and more burden to be structured and relevant levels of research.

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