June 3, 2020

My workflow problem

I’ve long had a problem with ‘workflow’.   It’s taken me a while, but I think I’ve finally worked out why.

Workflow is the application of a pin factory model to service businesses, to professions.   It breaks a process into tiny, individually repetitive steps that can be done faster and faster over time, making the whole process more efficient.

This is great for pins, and was a leap forward when Adam Smith wrote about it in 1776.   Back then, “See a pin, pick it up, then all day you’ll have good luck.” made sense.  A pin was valuable.  You were lucky to find one for free.

Nowadays, we don’t have a shortage of pins, or of other simple things that can be efficiently made using the factory method.   We have made enough garments to clothe the next 4 generations of the entire human race.

We do have a shortage of what’s needed to thrive in the face of enormous  and challenging complexities: empathy, creativity, imagination, judgement and flair.

You can’t make any of those in a pin factory.