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Thinking for a Living: How to Get Better Performances And Results from Knowledge Workers [Hardcover]

by Thomas H. Davenport
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)

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Book Description

September 13, 2005 1591394236 978-1591394235
Knowledge workers create the innovations and strategies that keep their firms competitive and the economy healthy. Yet, companies continue to manage this new breed of employee with techniques designed for the Industrial Age. As this critical sector of the workforce continues to increase in size and importance, that's a mistake that could cost companies their future. Thomas Davenport argues that knowledge workers are vastly different from other types of workers in their motivations, attitudes, and need for autonomy--and, so, they require different management techniques to improve their performance and productivity.

Based on extensive research involving over 100 companies and more than 600 knowledge workers, Thinking for a Living provides rich insights into how knowledge workers think, how they accomplish tasks, and what motivates them to excel. Davenport identifies four major categories of knowledge workers and presents a unique framework for matching specific types of workers with the management strategies that yield the greatest performance.

Written by the field's premier thought leader, Thinking for a Living reveals how to maximize the brain power that fuels organizational success. Thomas Davenport holds the President's Chair in Information Technology and Management at Babson College. He is director of research for Babson Executive Education; an Accenture Fellow; and author, co-author, or editor of nine books, including Working Knowledge: How Organizations Manage What They Know (HBS Press, 1997).

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Thinking for a Living: How to Get Better Performances And Results from Knowledge Workers + The Knowing-Doing Gap: How Smart Companies Turn Knowledge into Action
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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Thomas H. Davenport is the President’s Distinguished Chair at Babson College and a research fellow at the MIT Center for Digital Business.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard Business Review Press (September 13, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1591394236
  • ISBN-13: 978-1591394235
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.3 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #560,625 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Tom Davenport is the President's Distinguished Professor of Information Technology and Management at Babson College. He has led research centers at Accenture, McKinsey and Company, Ernst & Young, and CSC Index, and has taught at Harvard Business School, Dartmouth's Tuck School, the University of Texas, and the University of Chicago. He is a widely published author and speaker on the topics of analytics, information and knowledge management, reengineering, enterprise systems, and electronic business. Tom's latest book--coauthored with Jeanne Harris--is Competing on Analytics: The New Science of Winning, a best-seller that has been translated into 13 languages. Prior to this, Tom wrote, co-authored or edited twelve other books, including the first books on business process reengineering, knowledge management, attention management, and enterprise systems. He has written over 100 articles for such publications as Harvard Business Review, Sloan Management Review, California Management Review, the Financial Times, and many other publications, and has been a columnist for Information Week, CIO, and Darwin magazines. In 2003 he was named one of the world's top 25 consultants by Consulting magazine, and in 2007 and 8 was named one of the 100 most influential people in the IT industry by Ziff-Davis magazines. His blog for Harvard Business Online is

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
64 of 72 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If you have knowledge workers you need this book September 22, 2005
Knowledge worker is a term that is used loosely among executives and consultants alike. Everyone wants to be a knowledge worker or already is one, but few understand who they are, what they mean to the company and how do you manage them. Davenports Thinking for a Living is the best discussion of these central issues.

Davenport was co-author of Working Knowledge and the first half of that book is the clearest statement of knowledge management I have yet to read. Building on that work, Davenport offers practical advice backed by research and an understanding of what it takes to work in a knowledge environment. Davenport gives managers and leaders a set of tools to understand the different types of knowledge work and the management techniques to manage each. That recognition makes this a must read for every company.

In terms of the chapters:

Chapter 1: What is a knowledge worker anyway? Sets the context and provides practical definitions for the subject. This chapter is a little academic, but it does set a firm foundation for the rest of the book.

Chapter 2: How knowledge workers differ and the difference it makes. This chapter goes beyond routine descriptions of knowledge work to talk about four models of knowledge work: Transaction, Integration, Expert and Collaboration. This model is used through the latter chapters to help the reader understand and take action.

Chapter 3: Interventions, measures and experiments in knowledge work. This chapter tackles the hardest issues of managing knowledge workers -- how you motivate and measure people who work with their mind and their experience. Here, rather than offer theory, Davenport offers some practical and actionable advice on a tough subject.

Chapter 4: Knowledge work processes.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
I've been thinking for my living for 30 years so I found it useful to get the perspective of a leading management consultant and thinker. Davenport has lived through business reengineering, been part of a large consulting organization and seen inside many corporations, so he knows the subject. His book is written in a conversational style, so it's easy to read. Its content is useful and it contains some valuable insights. In particular, it builds on and fully acknowledges the work of Peter Drucker, who coined the term "knowledge worker," as well as other thought leaders, which is refreshing, since so many authors do not acknowledge that they "stand on the shoulders of giants" and thereby deprive their readers of valuable context and background to their work.

Davenport's book doesn't, in fact, contain as much actionable advice as Drucker's, but it does have some important new findings and new ideas, and brings Drucker's advice up to date. The main conclusion is the same: if we don't improve the effectiveness of our management of people and knowledge, we will find our jobs going to low-cost competitors overseas. However the focus is different. Davenport focuses on knowledge management and particularly personal information management. The substance of his work is based on his consulting experience and particularly on a number of surveys, including one evaluating how 400 people in four types of organization found information and learned to do their work -- and another looking at how 400 individuals managed their personal information. In both cases, a smaller number of highly effective individuals were interviewed to understand in detail how they achieved their results.
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27 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fresh Perspectives on Productivity January 4, 2006
In a sense, everyone must "think for a living" in response to questions, problems, opportunities, etc. Davenport focuses his attention on "how to get better performance and results from knowledge workers" and I presume to suggest that everyone involved in an organization's operations should be or helped to become productive "knowledge workers," whatever their specific duties and responsibilities may be. Those who have read any of Davenport's previous books -- notably Working Knowledge and Information Ecology co-authored with Laurence Prusak, The Attention Economy co-authored with John Beck, What's the Big Idea?, Mission Critical -- already know that Davenport is among the most perceptive and eloquent business thinkers on the subject of knowledge management. In my opinion, Thinking for a Living is his most valuable contribution to that subject thus far.

He carefully organizes his material within nine chapters. Throughout his lively and informative narrative, he responds to questions such as these:

* "What's a knowledge worker, anyway?"

* How do knowledge workers differ from others?

* So what?

* Which interventions, measures, and experiments in "knowledge work" are most effective?

* Which are the most important knowledge work processes?

* Which organizational technology is most appropriate to knowledge workers?

* How to develop their individual capabilities?

* What must be invested in knowledge workers' networks and learning?

* Which physical work environment will help to maximize knowledge worker performance?

* How best to manage knowledge workers?
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Good general discussion but seems outdated
This book provides a good general discussion around knowelge workers. However, some of the material seems outdated, espsecially when talking about some of the technology. Read more
Published 2 months ago by G. Ware
4.0 out of 5 stars Awesome
This book is very helpful in my class. I will be able to continue the use of the book in the future
Published 11 months ago by Taz Devil
4.0 out of 5 stars should be required reading in all engineering & technical...
As with many excellent books, I read about this in the Economist. Should be required reading for all managers & personnel people in firms and/or institutions employing 'knowledge... Read more
Published 15 months ago by JayBe
5.0 out of 5 stars This is a good book for anyone in management to read
This is a good book for anyone in management to read. This book provides information concerning how knowledge workers think and accomplish tasks. Read more
Published 17 months ago by Romeo Richards
1.0 out of 5 stars Useless read. Don't be misled by other positive reviews.
Terrible book. This was one of my worst reads of the past few months. This is one of those that bring you to the point of irritation while you're reading it, especially because I... Read more
Published 23 months ago by Marcelo Bahia
5.0 out of 5 stars Thinking for a Living: How to Get Better Performances And Results from...
I bought this book for a class; I consider that is good, easy to read, and can recommend for others.
Published on October 8, 2011 by dadtsch
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Condition; Great Review
Received the book in the allocated time given. The book was in great condition just as the review prior to purchase stated.
Published on September 9, 2011 by Katie
5.0 out of 5 stars Thinking for a Living
Item was received in a timely manner and was in excellent condition as the seller described. I am very satisfied.
Published on September 25, 2008 by Mei Markentell
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Buy - A must have
I have read a number of Tom's books, but this one beats them all (I am saving up to buy another one!). The knowledge worker is an essential ingredient for innovation. Read more
Published on September 17, 2007 by Jazz Clubz
1.0 out of 5 stars You have got to be kidding?
I endeavor to follow the addage that if you have nothing nice to say then say nothing; however, this work is redundant, virtually devoid of any actionable insights, and smacks of a... Read more
Published on July 19, 2007 by David Nemitz
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