IC is the domain of the knowledge worker. The knowledge factory is where they work, creating the assemblages of structural capital, relationship capital, human capital and product that Adams and Oleksak discuss.
The knowledge worker is a volunteer, as Ron Baker points out in Mind Over Matter: Why Intellectual Capital is the Chief Source of Wealth
). People voluntarily invest their IC in the companies and institutions where they work. Baker points out Peter Drucker’s prescription to keep knowledge workers happy, which includes autonomy, innovation, focus on quality, and continuous learning and teaching.
This leads the notion of the knowledge factory as a skunk works generator. A skunk works is really how things get done. Think about times when you have been on a really productive team, sleeves rolled up, getting things done, sharing a sense of mission and enthusiasm. This is the small team against the world, as Hollywood likes to portray it in dramas like House and Bones: problem-solving teams, awash in esprit de corps. It’s similar to the Hollywood business model – assemble the talented team and protect them as they bring something new to life.
Skunk works are explored in the book by that name, which recounts the experience of the innovators of the stealth aircraft. Though he doesn’t use the term, Tracy Kidder’s Soul of a New Machine portrays the spirit and dedication of this kind of team. Anyone who has experienced the skunk works and the bureaucracy, as I have, probably has an intuitive feel for the difference. To read a treatment of such issues in an engineering context, one has only to pick up any book by William Livingston.
The question for this community is how to foster these highly productive knowledge worker teams in our enterprises. We need to build this ability into the toolkit that we IC Engineers bring to the problem of programming productive thinking into ourselves and the knowledge workers we support.
One place to start is suggested by the Hopper brothers in The Puritan Gift, where they are talking about the need to throw off the paradigm of Taylorism in management: “It is only by becoming aware of the metaphorical ‘cookies’ implanted in our brains by our ancestors and turning them off, or if we prefer, not turning them off that we become fully and truly human”.