Fashioning job aids: it’s in the bag

I have no idea how I ended up at, “a style, design, and technology filter for gents” where they “like finding cool stuff and making fun of everything else.” I’m pretty sure I’m not their target market; almost none of my clothes have the name of living people on the label.  (And even Leon Leonwood Bean, who died 43 years ago, might not count as a designer.)

Even so, I appreciate their combination of focus, opinion, and attitude.  And that was before I found this compare-and-contrast gem:

"Examples from both ends of the male-appropriateness scale..."

To fully appreciate unrefinery’s style, read the entire post.  If you stay here, I’m just going to talk about their slightly tongue-in-cheek decision guide, and about how it relates to learning at work.

Sad sack?To bag, or not to bag?

A reader asked whether a bag in an earlier unrefinery post didn’t look “a lot like a purse.”  The blog agreed that the reader had a good point.

“While there’s no one thing that makes a bag more or less masculine,” unrefinery goes on, “there are a few parameters that taken collectively make all the difference.”

Now, if that’s not a nice way to concretize some tacit knowledge, I don’t use dry-erase markers on my (real) whiteboard.

Here, then, are the factors (“in order of importance”) used in that comparison above:

  • Size: the bag you choose should be “at least as big as the briefcase it replaces.”
  • Aspect: “wider than it is tall.  No exceptions.”
  • Carrying method: padded handles. Failing that, a same-side strap. As a last resort, a cross-body strap (but see the full post for cautionary detail).
  • Color: darker and more neutral.  A bag in a lighter color had better be something “no self-respecting woman would ever be seen carrying.”

In under 300 words, unrefinery sets out considerations and provides clear yet nuanced criteria.  (I can’t tell you how relieved I am that the black leather bag I use for my computer meets all four, though I don’t expect to see it featured on their blog.)

Whether you agree with the considerations is another question, but using the points here, you could evaluate any number of bags for men and come up with a judgment that, more often than not, would align with that of the exemplars at unrefinery.

Beyond the bag

Hardly any jobs are entirely made up of little decision guides.  I do think, though, there’s usually a fair amount of this stuff that’s not obvious to newcomers or even people who’ve been toiling in the field for a while.

(I was apparently absent the day someone said that virtually all French nouns ending in -tion, like collaboration, gestion, and natation, are feminine. There are a couple of exceptions, like un bastion. I’m still sorry I didn’t learn this 30 or 40 years ago.)

So imagine people in a workgroup whipping up considerations and criteria like this for decisions relevant to the job.

  • The effort to make the tacit knowledge more explicit encourages reflection and revision.
  • Differences in interpretation and practice become visible.  Maybe there’s more than one way to accomplish something–or maybe the differences have resulted in unnecessary variation.
  • Concrete examples help people work their way toward more general principles.

One way to think about learning is that it involves both acquiring information and applying it to a situation.  In the world of style, you might rephrase that as savoir faire.




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