An Award and the PKM Experts

I am proud to share two news items.

First, this past week at the Florida Library Association conference, my article “Efficient Librarianship: A New Path for the Profession” received the award for Outstanding Scholarly Contribution.  I am humbled that the Association choose to recognize it with these words:flaaward

“Douglas Crane’s article, “Efficient Librarianship:  A New Path for the Profession” (Public Libraries Magazine, Nov/Dec 2017) explores the intersection between personal productivity and knowledge management practices within the field of librarianship.  The article examines how librarians are uniquely suited to be excellent knowledge workers through the combination of librarian skill sets with best productivity and efficiency practices.  It further argues that through these skills and practices, the “Efficient Librarian” becomes a powerful consultant and decision maker.  In addition to this article, Doug Crane blogs on his “Efficient Librarian” website and conducts related training.”

Second, this week the Palm Beach County Library System is proud to host Tiago and Lauren from Forte Labs who will be sharing their expertise on Personal Knowledge Management (PKM).  This is the first time that Forte Labs has presented their signature workshop on Building a Second Brain to a room full of library staff.  It should be awesome!

I’ll blog more on the training later this week.

Does Technology=Productivity?

DA-SmallWill a new iPhone make you more productive?  Perhaps the latest app can keep you on track to complete projects?  Is a digital calendar more effective than an old fashioned paper one?  With the constant cycle of technology there is always a new tool or software version coming out that promises to improve our efficiency and make life easier.  However, is this promise simply untenable?

In a recent blog post, David Allen addresses the intersection between technology and productivity.  He starts with a nuanced approach to the topic.

“Despite my thirty-five years of consulting, coaching, and training in hundreds of organizations, I don’t have an easy answer to that question. The digital tools we need and like require more intensive labor than they should. It would be great to have a digital dashboard that integrated all apps, allowed you to manipulate information in a single location, and then sent the revised data back to its original location. And all upgrades would happen automatically! Doubtful, in my lifetime.”

Despite this conflicted opening, David goes on to offer some straightforward advice on the topic.  Read the rest of the post on the Getting Things Done web site.

Failure is Thankfully Unavoidable

All knowledge workers will fail!  Guaranteed!

Nobody likes to fail.  In fact, a harsh stigma is often attached to failure.  Yet ironically failure is a natural part of life.  It is both unavoidable and necessary especially in the realm of knowledge work.

Remember that knowledge work is composed of tasks and goals that must be defined by the knowledge worker themselves.  Alas, even with their best judgement and experience, knowledge workers are often faced with a deficit of information.  Based on an incomplete picture, they are forced to make their best guess and then see how it plays out.  A knowledge worker living in fear of failure becomes paralyzed into inaction, perpetually avoiding a decision.

To counteract this problem, I agree with blogger Venkatesh Rao in that our approach to solving problems should be similar to that of software engineers.  Successful software engineers are constantly tinkering with code, testing it over and over again looking for bugs and creating situations where it will crash.  It is only after many different trails and iterations that they reach a pragmatic success.  This approach, known as “agile” has its own mantra, “Fail Early, Fail Often.”

Therefore, I believe that agility is a key factor for a successful knowledge worker.  They must be willing to learn from mistakes, course correct, and experiment constantly until they reach the desired goal.  When viewed this way failure is not a problem, but instead a necessary component of the path.  Once this is understood, failure loses it sting.  The knowledge worker can become fearless!

UC-TeddyDon’t worry about your failures, as each one is a stepping stone on the path to success.  As President Theodore Roosevelt said:

“Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, then to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.”

Leonardo DaVinci – Knowledge Worker

On a long ride across the state of Florida, I downloaded an audiobook from CloudLibrary to pass the time.  My selection was the biography of Leonardo DaVinci by Walter Issacson.  As I listened to the fascinating life story of the archetypal Renaissance Man, it struck me that Leonardo was in fact a knowledge worker well ahead of his time.  Knowledge work is characterized by the worker having to define their own goals and the steps needed to achieve success.  Back in the 1500’s, Leonardo DaVinci was doing many of the best practices of knowledge work naturally and to powerful affect.

leonardoFor example, not trusting his head to remember ideas, Leonardo was constantly taking notes.  It is estimated that he wrote 5000 pages in his lifetime.  These wide-ranging notebooks jump from scientific studies, to sketches of machines and animals, to subjects for artwork, to notes about his personal life.  Leonardo was constantly generating new ideas and the notebooks detail how he pieced different ideas together for larger impact.  This made him an early expert in the field of personal knowledge management.

Another advanced knowledge worker skill was his drive to ask challenging questions.  Leonardo was always seeking out experts in the courts of Florence and Milan to engage in deep discussions on a wide range of topics.  This incredible multi-disciplinary and collaborative approach was a secret to his success.  For example, his knowledge of anatomy allowed him to accurately draw the muscles of people in his paintings.  This small detail gave the images a sense of realistic movement that other paintings of the time lacked.

To read more about Da Vinci’s fascinating life, copies of the Issacson biography should be available at your local library.  You can also view pages from his notebooks at the website of the British Library.  Unfortunately, I don’t think you will find a secret DaVinci Code in any of his notebooks!

How Software is Eating the World

Look around your room.  How many devices do you see that run on software?  Our computers obviously, but we often forget that software runs our televisions and cable boxes.  Many people now own smart appliances or have Ring doorbells.  All recent cars have a software package that controls vital aspects of the car.  With the spread of software, we are more and more reliant on an invisible profession to manage our days: software engineers.  As Marc Andreessen wrote in his 2011 Wall Street Journal article, software is eating the world.

raoVenkatesh Rao has deeply explored how software design process altered our way of living.  In fact, he champions that idea that we need to think more like software engineers who embrace failure and use it to constantly improve their work.  In his online series, Breaking Smart, he argues that software has become a transformational technology on par with the development of language and money.  Yet being in the middle of this transformation, we still struggle to understand its full effects. Venkatesh writes:

“As a simple example, a 14-year-old teenager today (too young to show up in labor statistics) can learn programming, contribute significantly to open-source projects, and become a talented professional-grade programmer before age 18. This is breaking smart: an economic actor using early mastery of emerging technological leverage — in this case a young individual using software leverage — to wield disproportionate influence on the emerging future.”

This is clearly demonstrated in the impact of people like Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Larry Page and Sergey Brin of Google.  Venkatesh’s ideas are complex, but the Breaking Smart blog is worth tackling if you want to get a better sense of the often-unseen impact that software has on the world.

The Two Problems in Life

davidallenSome days it seems like our lives are full of problems.  They appear to come at us in all shapes and sizes, adding stress and tension to our days.  But perhaps all these problems are not really different from each other.  Maybe they all have something in common.

According to David Allen, we only have two types of problems.  In his recent blog post at Getting Things Done, he shares his theory.

“You only have two things you ever need to be concerned about. Not only are there only two problems—they are really quite simple. Ready?

Problem #1: You know what you want, and you don’t know how to get it.

Problem #2: You don’t know what you want.

“Anything you can define as a problem can be reduced to one or both of those statements.

“Now, since there are only two problems, it follows that there are only two solutions that you will ever need. You need to make it up, and make it happen. You must decide and clarify what outcome you’re after; and you must then determine how you get from here to there.”

Learn in more detail how you can solve either of these two problems by reading the rest of David’s blog post.

National Library Week

Please join me and the Palm Beach County Library System in celebrating National Library Week (April 7-13, 2019)!  According to the American Library Association (ALA), the week is a special time to celebrate libraries.

“National Library Week is an annual celebration highlighting the valuable role libraries, librarians, and library workers play in transforming lives and strengthening our communities.

“This year’s theme, Libraries = Strong Communities, illustrates how today’s libraries are at the heart of our cities, towns, schools and campuses, providing critical resources, programs and expertise. They also provide a public space where all community members, regardless of age, culture or income level, can come together to connect and learn.”

I am happy to see that many media outlets are promoting National Library Week.  This year, CNN has a special story on “9 facts about librarians you probably didn’t know.”  For example, did you know that 1.3 billion people visit public libraries every year, more than the 1.24 billion movie theater admissions in 2017.  So why not celebrate the week by stopping into your local library and picking up a DVD or book.  They are free to borrow with your card!

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