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The Distributed Mind: Achieving High Performance Through the Collective Intelligence of Knowledge Work Teams Hardcover – October 24, 1997

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

The authors are consultants and founders of the Fisher Group, a firm specializing in the development of high-performance work teams. Their book focuses on how organizations of all types and sizes can create "knowledge work teams" and make the most of the knowledge assets held by individual employees.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

About the Author

KIMBALL FISHER & MAREEN DUNCAN FISHER (Portland, OR) are co-founders of the Fisher Group, an internationally known consulting company that specializes in the development of high-performance work teams. Their clients include many Fortune 500 companies, and they have worked extensively across North America, Europe, Asia, and Africa. Mr. Fisher is the author of the best-selling Leading Self-Directed Work Teams and co-author of Tips for Teams.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 306 pages
  • Publisher: AMACOM (October 24, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0814403670
  • ISBN-13: 978-0814403679
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.4 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,431,012 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 28, 1998
Format: Hardcover
The husband-and wife team of Kimball and Mareen Duncan Fisher have collaborated to produce a well-documented, stimulating and useful book on what they call the "distributed mind", or knowledge workers who are geographically and/or organizationally dispersed. The Fishers have been involved in business process redesign for many years, and they have poured their comprehensive lessons learned into this 277-page volume.
One of their most important contributions that they deliver early in the book is to demystify the term "knowledge worker" by explaining that very few knowledge workers do only knowledge work and very few physical laborers do only physical work. This is a liberating insight, because it expands the potential applicability of their later discussions on how knowledge work is important in factories as well as R & D labs.
The Fishers use the term "the learning lattice" to describe an approach to redesigning knowledge work that explains how teams can be organized to take advantage of both units composed of functional experts (skill development teams) and cross-functional teams (business teams), optimizing the knowledge, perspectives and contributions of all concerned. Some organizations call these newly emerging learning lattices "centers of excellence".
Both of the Fishers started their careers in the art world, it is not surprising to see that they have some intriguing comments about harnessing creativity in organizations. They argue that creativity is a social activity, not a guru-centered process that requires isolation. Citing a 1993 survey done !
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Format: Hardcover
The T-word, team, has been badly devaluated during the last few years. People talk about teams without really understanding, what they actually are about. No wonder some people react with cynicism when their CEO returns from a training seminary with the word Team on his lips.
There is a solid case for this book that addresses teams, especially knowledge work teams from a practical no-nonsense perspective. This book makes good reading not only for knowledge work team builders but also for the people that actually make up the teams. The language and structure is exceptionally readable and the issues are easy to grasp. Someone might even say that Fishers use too many cases to justify their points. Fishers start with discussing knowledge work, then teams and finally knowledge work teams and finally building a working organisation made of knowledge work teams.
Fishers do not limit their perspective to teams and organisations but discuss also their influences to societies and individuals. Teams do not work in a vacuum but change the way people work and think and live their lives.
The one thing that I disagree with is they way Fishers create an artificial (in my opinion) distinction between physical work and knowledge work, and the consequent physical work teams and knowledge work teams. Fishers stress the point that even knowledge workers do physical work and physical workers do knowledge work, but within their definition of knowledge work!
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5 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Turgay BUGDACIGIL on August 10, 2000
Format: Hardcover
"This is the age of knowledge work. It is the age of the smart worker. The operations that learn the secret of tapping into this knowledge will always outperform those that do not. Those that master the 'collective intelligence' of knowledge work teams will be the architects of the future...As individuals, knowledge workers are smart people. But their individual effectiveness is amplified when they are also part of a smart organization. As an effective knowledge team, they can often create a sort of synergy where the outcome of the whole is greater than the sum of its individual parts. These smart teams appear as though all team members are of a common mind that shares information and ideas seamlessly across the membership-a distributed mind...This book is about knowledge work teams. Knowledge work requires a special set of skills related to an area of expertise, such as those of an engineer, a salesperson, a consultant, a manager, or a health-care professional. But it requires much more than technical competence to be successful as a knowledge worker" (from the Introduction).
In this context, Kimball Fisher and Mareen Duncan Fisher:
* define knowledge work by comparing five characteristics that differ for physical and knowledge work as follows:
- Job Characteristics: (1). Core task, (2). Critical skills, (3). Work process, (4). Work outcome, (5). Knowledge used.
- Job Characteristics of Physical Work: (1). Doing, (2). Physical, (3). Usually linear, (4). Product, (5). Applied.
- Job Characteristics of Knowledge Work: (1). Thinking, (2). Mental, (3). Usually nonlinear, (4). Information, (5). Created.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Michael Tulig on April 29, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This is a book on Knowledge Workers, and on business management, actually. It does discuss industrial age and post-industrial age workers, but it's not so much about industry, industrial workers, and modern factory automation.
The sense I came away with is that the aim of the authors was on making work teams more effective. However, for me, the book gets back to a more fundamental issue, the possibility of effectively eliminating levels of management in any organization. This is done not just by eliminating some staff, and giving the remaining staff communications. On a superficial level, automation of information access and communications for today's knowledge workers is required. However, on a more fundamental level, this is done by the assumption of a greater degree of the responsibilities by Knowledge Workers.
The book does get to the nub of flat (empowerment) versus hierarchical (delegation) management styles, which has come about with downsizing and the advent of empowered workers. It discusses how to manage processes and people with fewer managers, by enabling them to gather and use information and make decisions. Most importantly, it prioritizes: responsibility, empowerment, the management of processes, the management of people, management styles, downsizing, and information sharing. They all go together, but some of these are ends, and others are only means to an end. Further, some of these means to an end are prerequisites and others are only facilitators.
Whether tasks are delegated one-at-a-time to individuals (hierarchical), or projects and processes are turned over to a work-team (flat), in both cases communications is required.
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