Is there any value in reading books now that you can find everything online?
That’s a question that has polarized the knowledge world for a while. One group predicts the end of books now that all information is available on the internet. The other group detests the prediction arguing that books are eternal.
Lets clarify the problem first. As in such debates, the core question gets so muddy that no one really knows what they are really arguing about. When we say books, its the old-fashioned hard-binded version that focuses on a single subject at length. That is what we are comparing with the astronomical quantity of information in internet addressing every possible subject.
Another clarification: when we say books, a physical version is equivalent to a soft copy like on Kindle. That is simply a question of different media addressing reading convenience and efficiency. The structure and nature remain the same. A book on Kindle stays a book.
LinkedIn recently shared a fabulous photo series titled “Where I work” featuring workspaces and work habits of what it calls “thought leaders” – essentially all knowledge workers. Each of the 50+ places were described by their occupants. It was just awesome to see them and the amount of thought and insight that went into their design and customization.
The LinkedIn article was a pleasant complement to my current re-reading of “Peopleware” – one of the all-time classics for management of knowledge workers. The book dedicates one of its complete sections to “The Office Environment” and how it is one of the key components of effective work (and the most abused and ignored one as well).
Going through the picture series, I could not help extract common themes and patterns even from a widely eclectic and diverse collection of people and businesses. Not surprisingly, many resonate with the ideas in Peopleware. One cannot emphasize the importance of a personalized, open and comfortable workspace and the impact it has on one’s work.
Here are the common themes I found (you are welcome to add to them):
The world seems to be divided into two groups. One which loves process and the other which detests it.
A process streamlines, automates and standardizes a task such that doing it does not take more thinking than required nor leaves room for deviation. We create a process to automate and simplify the repetitive and make it efficient. We tend to avoid reinventing the wheel every time. We follow a process to file our taxes, claim our expenses, apply for a vacation, register our new car and communicate with our customers. A process is created to help simplify our lives and save us time. It is intended to bring order and control to our lives.
So what is the problem? Why does the second group exist at all? What is their argument?