Paid to Think

Posted 1 year, 8 months ago | Originally written on 18 Aug 2022

Are you paid to think? Does your employer have you on the payroll, not just for your manual participation in some process, but for creative and original ideas? Then you are a knowledge worker in the pure sense.

Knowledge work is nonlinear by design. It is impossible to guarantee a steady flow of ideas especially when they are original. It could take a few seconds to produce a great idea or weeks or even months. If the value is the cleverness of the idea (how effective and ingenious it is) then here are three immediate consequences:

  1. Time can never be a factor. There is an absolute trade off between the quality of an idea and the time required to produce one. Requiring knowledge workers to fill timesheets is as futile as herding cats.
  2. If (2) is true then being paid to think is a whole life affair; we don’t stop to think when we ‘leave’ work. Ironically, it means that knowledge workers pay should reflect that they are employed beyond the typical work day i.e., they work even when they sleep.
  3. Knowledge is unmanageable by design. The best thing a ‘manager’ can do is get out of the way. Any task that ostensibly attempts to control the creative process necessarily hinders it.