Harnessing the Digital Lens to Measure and Manage Information Work
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Sloan School of Management
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Sloan School of Management; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)
Marshall W. Van Alstyne
Boston University - Department of Management Information Systems; Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Sloan School
November 16, 2010
Revolutions in measurement inevitably revolutionize science and practice. Over 300 years ago, Anton van Leeuwenhoek developed a better microscope to verify thread counts on imported carpets. Using this new tool, he discovered microorganisms he called “animalcules” in drops of water and individual blood corpuscles in drops of blood. Biology and medicine have never been the same.
Just as the microscope gave rise to the germ theory of disease and the remarkable advances that followed, our new-found ability to observe fine-grained information flows in electronic data portends a revolution in our understanding of information work. Managers who harness this new Digital Lens will uncover a wealth of insights into performance improvement for individuals, teams and organizations - insights that will ultimately affect the economy as a whole.
In this article, we draw on our own research, and that of others, to describe tools and techniques for tracking information work in unprecedented detail. The result is a step change in our ability to manage information work and information workers. During the course of our research, we used these tools to uncover lessons for individuals on information novelty, workload and transformation, as well as for organizations on automation, decentralization, and incentives. Perhaps more importantly, this fine-grained view of work provides a toolkit for deriving new lessons, many of which will vary from company to company, but each of which will be grounded in detailed, actionable data.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 16
Date posted: November 17, 2010
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