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Know It All

Finally, there's a smarter approach to managing your knowledge workers.

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This story appears in the November 2005 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Thomas Davenport contends we do a pretty lousy job of managing our most knowledgeable employees. The Babson College management professor studied 600 knowledge workers at 100 companies and found most are managed using an outdated approach developed during the Industrial Revolution. In Thinking for a Living (Harvard Business School Press, $27.50), Davenport prescribes a method for boosting performance in this critical segment, which comprises 36 million American workers, according to his analysis of data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Forget about leaning over the shoulders of programmers, customer service reps and other knowledge workers: They resent intrusive oversight, Davenport warns. Instead, use technology to improve the quality and performance of these workers. For example, create function-specific web portals to organize and present information efficiently for knowledge workers. And experiment, by all means. This is a critical management challenge for most entrepreneurs, and getting better at it, especially if you develop your own "secret sauce," could give you a sizable competitive edge.

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