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We rightly celebrate those who take something humble and elevate it to greatness.

A chef in Naples makes authentic pizza (A chef in Chicago makes it their way). An artisanal tea maker will blend the perfect cup with their well-trained palette insured for millions of dollars. A distiller in the Highlands of Scotland creates the finest whiskey, not against, but with the elements. Three culinary examples whereby highly skilled experts take a few basic ingredients and bring their understanding of their environment and their experience together. They activate the right processes at the right time to create something greater than the sum of its parts.

Takumi craftmanship in Japan

In Japanese culture, they celebrate and revere Takumi Masters – skilled craftspeople who do the same skill repeatedly until they achieve mastery. To be considered a master of your craft in Japan, you have to spend 60,000 hours refining your skills. That’s the equivalent of working eight hours a day, 250 days a year, for 30 years.

Japanese automotive manufacturer, Lexus, employ Takumi Masters to oversee the finishing touches of their products, from the hand-stitched leather to the flawless paintwork, inspected by the touch of a white glove and the eye of the Takumi master. As part of the recruitment process, aspiring Takumi are challenged to fold a relatively simple origami cat. But they must do it with just a single hand – their non-dominant one – and their creation must be fully formed and complete in under 90 seconds.

The other key aspect of a Takumi Master is that they don’t just hone their craft; they share it too. By embracing lessons learned rather than reinventing the wheel every time a new project begins, cultivating a sharing culture not only preserves knowledge, but it also converts siloed elements into collective muscle memory and increases long-term productivity. Many businesses would do well to replicate this as an approach to growth.

Celebrating the mastery of knowledge workers

We should celebrate knowledge workers who dedicate themselves to activating the ordinary to deliver extraordinary business outcomes. Those that understand that a stored document is not the end of its journey but the start of something greater.

To translate documented processes into meaningful action, knowledge work draws on a wealth of accumulated experience and expertise and critical analysis and communication skills. It delivers the right information to the right people at the right time, resulting in increased productivity and better decision making.

As my colleague, Dan Carmel, Chief Product Officer, put it in a recent ILTA publication, “Making knowledge work means turning knowledge from a noun into a verb”.  It goes beyond simply storing information and documents like ingredients, allowing them to exist in a passive state. The right platform and processes will enable you to bring knowledge, technology, and expertise together by making knowledge work to your advantage, with measurable outcomes for you and your clients.

Our Making Knowledge WorkTM research found that 68% of knowledge workers believe “the information contained in digital documents and files” is vital to their business. It is the core ingredient in the recipe for success and better business outcomes.

However, 28% of respondents stated that the majority or all of their documents were dispersed and siloed across multiple systems. Furthermore, 24% of respondents indicated that the decrease in face-to-face interaction associated with remote work makes collaborative knowledge work even more critical in a post-Covid world.

The hybrid workforce craves secure collaboration

So, there is a greater reliance and need for more control over ever-increasing sources of knowledge in the face of reduced face-to-face collaboration and conversation, which is also coming up against organizations with systems that are not fit for purpose. This may have been understandable in the moment of a reactive global pandemic pivot to remote working, but as the emerging hybrid work model takes hold, it has become business-critical to address the issues or risk being left behind.

These findings demonstrate that adapting to this shift toward a hybrid workforce necessitates implementing a knowledge work platform capable of approaching these challenges from multiple perspectives and successfully creating an ecosystem for knowledge activation. And this is how we can achieve near mastery in knowledge work.

We see that removing any potential friction in knowledge sharing necessitates a comprehensive, fully integrated platform that includes document management, email management, AI, security, and other features.

When you don’t have 60,000 hours, but you need to deliver excellence at the right time by working within a platform, we can let technology alleviate the mundanity of documentation and do the heavy-lifting upfront with AI-powered search, extraction and insight.

We can overcome the loss of the serendipitous moments that mattered in the kitchens and corridors of offices when we use the capabilities of the cloud to our advantage and securely unlock collaboration once more.

Ultimately, with a platform, we can work from anywhere and deliver upon that prepared knowledge – the very activity that commands the higher fees –  to achieve better business outcomes for our clients and grow our business at scale.

At that point, we can say that we are taking the ordinary, humble document and elevating it into something masterful and measurable for your business. That is making knowledge work.

About the author

Neil Araujo

As co-founder of iManage and VP/General Manager of the ECM business at HP, Neil was responsible for thought leadership and product strategies before becoming CEO.