Tools of production

Chris Anderson, in his interesting book, The Long Tail, says: “When the tools of production are available to everyone, everyone becomes a producer.” He’s talking in the context of the explosion in computer technology and internet access to software that allows ordinary people to create videos, music, books, and blogs on every conceivable topic, but the thought is an important one in other contexts as well. In effect Anderson is saying give people the right tools and they will produce. Because production – be it of things, service, or ideas – is key to business success, organizations that make it a priority to equip their employees with the right tools will be a step ahead.

So what are these tools? Technology, sure, but I would argue for a broader definition of tools to include opportunities to acquire knowledge, open communication channels, access to experts and stakeholders, and a sense of empowerment. In other words, employees need training, libraries and databases, a way to access the lessons learned from past projects, the freedom to express ideas and be heard, and to feel as if their ideas and efforts are valued.

Workplaces are also tools of production. This is not a new idea by any means – people have been trying to come up with the best workplace design for years, with mixed results – but most workplaces continue to be built on tired models. I googled “workplace design” and quickly found the following articles that discuss the productive value of a well thought out workplace: DJC News, Management Issues, and Building Design & Construction. Resources spent to ensure a supportive and empowering workplace are worth every penny.

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