By Ed Reid, the owner of The Alternative Board.

“WHAT do you do?” I asked someone I’d just met.

“We’re in the knowledge business,” she said. “My company adds knowledge to knowledge.”

I couldn’t help but ask her to explain, and I couldn’t help thinking about it afterwards either. Because we’re all in the knowledge business now.

When I started in business people had stock: they had inventories.

Now, I look round the offices of so many of the TAB York members and all I see are the serried ranks of Apple Macs.

So everything’s fine: we’re all knowledge workers and the future for our businesses is rosy.

Perhaps. I came across this article in the Harvard Business Review recently: it certainly bears out what I see – and what various TAB York members tell me. A bank of Macs is not necessarily the answer to all your problems.

Interruptions: There’s a great line in the HBR article: I think it’s safe to say that at least some of the work of your company requires sustained focus of longer than two minutes.

Yet we seem to go out of our way to encourage interruptions to our work.

An email flashes up: there’s an alert on your phone: your computer starts cheering – someone’s scored a goal in the Euros.

But if the knowledge economy demands anything, it demands concentration. All the studies show that your work takes longer if you’re constantly interrupted, and that you produce lower quality work.

Design: Hand in hand with the banks of Macs have come open-plan offices. As Maura Thomas describes in the HBR, they’re a double-edged sword. Yes, open-plan offices bring increased collaboration, sharing of ideas and a more social working environment. But they also bring distractions, noise and a loss of privacy.

Absent friends: My eldest son has just turned 14, and I wonder if he’ll ever work in a traditional office?

Remote working is a trend that’s already well established. I do wonder, though, if the vast majority of businesses are getting the most out of the team members that aren’t in the office.

If it’s not ‘out of sight, out of mind,’ all too often it’s ‘out of sight, out of the loop.’

Success comes from keeping everyone involved and taking all your team on the journey – wherever they are.