Footnote on paper

The words we use matter. The way we frame a question constrains the way we think about it and so the range of possible answers we may find. There is skeuomorphism of words as well as of objects.

Paper, documents and files are all words which have acquired the potential to mislead as we move to more digital and less paper-focused ways of working.

Thinking on paper

We used to know where to put things if we thought we might want to find them again later. It was called filing. Filing got less fashionable in government about 15 years ago, not coincidentally at about the time that paper was getting increasingly displaced.

The way we think about and manage work and information has changed a lot since then, but to a surprising extent the idea of paper has survived much longer than the reality – all too often, we organise information as if it were on paper, even when it never has been and there is no expectation that it ever will be.

Thinking time

I went to the post office at lunch time. Lots of other people did too, so it was quite busy.

For the last few years, this post office has had a fancy queuing system (though it now no longer seems to require a dedicated member of staff to explain the self service options, which is progress of a kind). I took my ticket and prepared to wait.

The digital transformation illusion

This is something you see quite often as digital impinges on old-fashioned industries, that first of all digital makes the old product better, and then all of a sudden it creates a new product that kills the old product entirely. And so digital looks to begin with like everything’s going great, that it’s going to be wonderful, we’re going to make lots more money than we did before, and then all of a sudden, somebody comes along and crushes you.