March 15, 2019
Upstream vs downstream
Sent by Jonathan Stark on March 17th, 2019
Why is “head work” more valuable than “hands work?”
By my definition, head work includes things like strategy, design, architecture, and planning. These are things that tend to happen upstream. In other words, activities that happen before or early in the timeline of a new endeavor.
Upstream activities are inherently more valuable than downstream ones because upstream activities have lots of significant downstream repercussions.
Hence the “upstream/downstream” metaphor. The effect of everything that happens upstream is magnified over time. The farther upstream you are, the more magnified things get (for better or worse, btw).
Doing a good (or bad) job designing a toilet for Kohler that will then be manufactured by the thousand and shipped all over the world will have orders of magnitude more impact on Kohler than doing a good (or bad) job unclogging my mom’s toilet will have on my mom.
A few things to highlight:
- There is way WAY more risk involved in designing a toilet than unclogging one.
- It’s way WAY more valuable to the client for you to design a toilet than to unclog one.
- It’s way WAY more fun to design a toilet than to unclog one.
As with everything, caveats apply:
- ...unless maybe the clogged toilet is on the ISS.
- …unless maybe the toilet design client isn’t a big manufacturer.
- …unless maybe you have a fetish for snaking toilets. (True story: I have a friend who loves popping other people’s zits so much that she’ll sometimes approach people she barely knows and ask, “Can I help you out with that?” Different strokes, I guess...)
Moral of the story?
Head upstream my friends.