The essential point of being a knowledge worker
A blog post appeared in the Huffington Post a few years ago entitled “you are more than a knowledge worker“, which, in my view, completely missed the essential point of knowledge work.
The basic premise on which the blog post is constructed was that being a knowledge worker means “your worth at work is directly related to how much you [personally] know”. The author then went on to say that your personal knowledge alone is not enough, you need other things, such as Experience, Expertise, Eccentricity and Educability.
However the worth of a knowledge worker is NOT directly related to how much you personally know. That is not the essential point of being a knowledge worker.
The knowledge worker differs from the manual worker in that their work involves the application of knowledge rather than the application of muscles, but that doesn’t mean that the knowledge has to be held by the individual worker.
The knowledge worker *applies knowledge* rather than *holds knowledge in their head*.
Much as automation massively increased the productivity of the manual worker by giving them power way beyond their personal strength and dexterity, and by allowing them to share their strength and skill with that of others, so Knowledge Management massively increases the productivity of the knowledge worker by providing knowledge as a shared asset, something every worker can draw on and contribute to. Knowledge is the knowledge worker’s raw material, but that knowledge should be the knowledge of the whole company, not of the individual.
The skills of a knowledge worker include the skills of sharing and learning, as the blog author alludes to in the “educability” section. This is not an additional element to knowledge work – it is a core skill for someone who works with knowledge. It is the “learner” element of the knower-learner spectrum, and the blog author is assuming that a knowledge worker must be a “knower”.
A great knowledge worker is a person who seeks and finds knowledge to apply at work, and then shares their own knowledge and experience with others. A good knowledge company is one that supports their knowledge workers by making knowledge a shared, accessible, re-usable and continuously improved resource, through setting up a KM Framework.
For a knowledge worker in a good knowledge company, your worth at work is directly related to how much you can learn, how much you can apply what you have learned, and how much you can share new knowledge with others. Not how much you personally know.
Tags: Archive, knowledge worker