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A harsh reality of the modern workplace is that people are often hired for their purely mental qualities -- analytical faculty, strategic skill, creative ability, and so on -- then penalized for using them.

In particular, there is a general perception that managers judge time spent "just" thinking as time wasted. Whether or not managers actually think this is almost beside the point! The culture of many workplaces is such that people feel they have to "look busy," which often means sacrificing the valuable thought they could be putting into their work for the sake of filler activities whose outputs can at least be measured.

Of course, many managers are sensible enough to understand that their staff members are not always daydreaming when they sit staring at the wall. However, without a simple and effective means of planning, supporting and measuring mental work, managers are caught in something of a double bind. This is captured perfectly by an old cartoon in which two managers of the Acme Soap Company walk past the open door of an office in which a man is sitting with his legs up on his desk, staring out of the window. "That's Jones," says one manager to the other, "one of our best thinkers."

"Yes," says the other manager, "but how do we know he's thinking about soap?"

Human Interaction Management (HIM) helps deal with this problem, by explicitly recognizing the need to support mental work as the third of its five basic principles:

Organizations must learn to manage the time and mental effort their staff invest in researching, comparing, considering, deciding, and generally turning information into knowledge and ideas.

HIM sets out a notation including the necessary elements to support its principles, and provides guidelines on use of this notation by identifying a number of patterns characteristic of human work. Of particular relevance to mental work are the REACT pattern and its sub-pattern AIM:


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