Sunday, May 8

The reality of knowledge work

I installed a wireless home network this weekend, and it was a lot harder than I thought it should have been (three XP computers and a TiVo with new Linksys wireless stuff). I spent over an hour going online, Googling user groups, until I got what I needed to configure everything. The experience was similar to when I got a wide screen television, and had to change not just the user settings, but the accessed-only-by-secret-code factory settings.

The fussy, brittle, politically correct, theorist side of me was indignant at both activities. What about 'Customer satisfaction,' seamless integration,' 'quality assurance,' 'user interface,' blah blah blah?

And yet the rest of me was realizing how old I must sound. "I can't believe I have to go get gasoline for this new-fangled automobile. Why Bessie just needed some grass." Or even, 'why does the hardware store sell me these grass seeds that will need to be mowed once a week?'

So I spent an hour doing knowledge work. Big deal. What was I belly-aching about? Networking software and televisions might get easier over time, but what comes next will require just as much adapting.

It is easy to theorize about learning in the future. It is just a bit harder when it takes up a Saturday afternoon.


David Grebow said...

Hey Clark I think what you experience IS learning in the future only the future's already here.

Imagine if your employer had sent you to a Customer site to accomplish essentially the same thing.

If you were 'An Adapter/Adopter" you would have done it the same way until you had done it so many times and under so many varying circumstances that you would be the Alpha User and people would be calling Clark!

Jim Schuyler said...

Yes, great comment - what you experienced was in deed learning - or at least should have been. But, think about whether you actually learned it or not! What if your network stops working next month. Will you remember how to fix it?

I am constantly finding myself in this spot. I fixed some program three months ago, then promptly forgot what I did to fix it. Because I thought that it would remain fixed forever. Then Apple released OSX 10.3.9 which broke it ... ;-) It took me another 2 hours to figure out (all over again) what I had done to fix it in the first place. Or I fixed my cellphone which had been spontaneously rebooting every 2 hours (yes, this is true).

So, that leads me to how I solve this learning problem. I "externalize" my memory of such technological glitches and fixes. I maintain a "gems of wisdom" file that contains all of the little fixes I've had to perform on programs in the past. Maybe you'd call it a crib sheet. And in this case it's NOT cheating! Whenever I get in trouble again (such as when my Tivo decides to wipe its memory and re-initialize, which happens every 6 months or so), I go back to my file and voila, there's the solution. This is a great solution for those little things that I don't have the time or inclination to memorize but I know they'll be back to bite me.

Clark Quinn said...

On the other hand, I relearn how to use my Fax software every time I need it (and keep hoping I'll never need it again :). It's got a bad model, but it's just simple enough to relearn to not make it worth remembering or putting in a cheat sheet.

We regularly make conscious (or unconscious) decisions like this. The point of being a meta-learner, however, is to make those choices consciously, looking to make your self most effective.

Amy P said...

I love your idea of a "gems of wisdom" file! Thanks for the great idea! I am constantly in that position with my computer and software! Recently I called my ISP for help and two days later had the same darn trouble and couldn't remember how the tech fixed it! Ridiculous! Love the idea! Amy

Anonymous said...

^^ nice blog!! ^@^

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