Knowledge work and connection work

In today’s world, most of us in non-industrialized jobs have two kinds of work – knowledge work and connection work. These kinds of work require different sets of tools –

Knowledge work – where thinking is the main action. The requirements here are an ability to think, an ability to facilitate creative thought when working in groups and an ability to synthesize.
Common tools: White boards, pen and paper, meetings (if you are facilitating knowledge work in groups)

Connection work – where connection is the main action. The requirements here are an ability to build relationships, organize groups of people and be available, responsive, and open to making all sorts of connections.
Common tools: Email, meetings, Skype and other video tools

An executive probably has a 30-70 split between knowledge work and connection work as most of her time is spent executing strategic plans. A venture capitalist probably has a 20-80 split as a lot of his time is spent meeting either prospective entrepreneurs or teams at his portfolio companies. An analyst, on the other hand, probably has an 80-20 split. You’ll probably see a similar split for a young researcher who will probably need to spend 90% of her time on research and 10% on connection.

The trend, however, is that as you age and, arguably, do work that has more impact, the proportion of connection work in your life increases. Leadership, if I were to generalize, is probably 25% knowledge work and 75% connection work. The knowledge work piece is critical because it makes sure you’re thinking, prioritizing and working on the right things. But, it is in connecting with and moving people where you get things done and create impact.

There are 3 important takeaways here –
1. It is important to understand the nature of our jobs and the degree of knowledge and connection required. This can be a wonderful way to to gauge fit (some of us are more comfortable with knowledge over connection for example) but is also critical to understand what will make you successful.

2. While connection work requires us to be connected, knowledge work requires us to be disconnected. So, it is important that we do both kinds of work justice. Too often, we spend way too much time connected while barely moving the needle on the connection activities we actually need to get done (hello snapchat!).

3. It is critical we master the tools required to get both kinds of work done. We’ll definitely need both and there’s no point complaining about emails and meetings (more on these another day) – they will remain as critical tools as long as we have a connection-based economy. And, I’d argue that the connection economy is here to stay.