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The Mysterious Art and Science of Knowledge-Worker Performance

As far back as 1959, Peter Drucker insisted on the need to pay more attention to knowledge work and the people doing such work. More than 40 years later, the subject still lacks its Frederick Taylor or Henry Ford; at best, it has been explored by approximations of William Morris and the Italian Futurists — artists who expressed an understanding of industrial developments in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

In the spirit of the artists concerned with industrialism a century ago, but with an eye toward more scientific advances, the authors spent more than a year investigating the mysteries of knowledge-worker performance. In the process, they realized that organizations can’t begin to increase their understanding of what makes knowledge workers effective until they recognize the importance of such workers as a whole and how to differentiate among them as individuals. In this article, the authors explore five key issues that companies are struggling with and then develop a framework to help organizations think more clearly about how to improve the performance of their knowledge workers.

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