The Evolution of the Knowledge Web Worker

Gran Canaria - Degollada de las Yeguas and Surroundings in the WinterA knowledge worker is someone who gets to decide what he or she does each morning“, by Thomas A. Stewart, (Journalist & Author) is probably one of my all time favourite quotes that my good friend David Gurteen keeps sharing every so often in a couple of places. You gotta love those quotes. They are incredibly insightful and very resourceful to include in your presentations, blog posts, etc. etc. For sure. But I can imagine how there may well be a bunch of folks out there, who may not be doing Knowledge Management work, who may be wondering what Knowledge Workers are all about and how they can find them within their organisation, right? Specially, if you are looking for the right experts with the right level of acquired knowledge, experience, skills and know-how.

Well, walk no further! To the helpful Wikipedia entry on knowledge workers, here we have got this wonderful infographic by the smart folks over at SocialCast that describes, quite nicely, not only the origins behind information / knowledge workers, but also some good insights on the future knowledge worker, although, seeing how things are progressing, I would have probably chosen a different term for them: knowledge Web workers, as we keep relying more and more on the Social Web to conduct our knowledge work. Either way, the infographic is absolutely fantastic, so I thought I would go ahead and share it across with you folks to have a look into it further; if it is too small, click on the image to enlarge it back to its original source.

The other good thing though about this particular infographic is that, while going through it, I just couldn’t help remembering a presentation that my good friend, from down under, Stephen Collins, did nearly 4 years ago and which, while revisiting it again as I am working through this blog post, is now more relevant than ever, specially, as social networking tools are becoming more and more pervasive within the corporate environment and plenty of businesses are starting to wonder and think about how they can help facilitate and unleash the hidden talent within their own organisations: basically, their people.

So I thought I would bring it up again over here today, in this blog entry, to build further up on the follow-up I wrote back then. More than anything else to raise some awareness on what it could probably mean being a Knowledge Web Worker today, or Knowledge Worker 2.0, as Steve prefers to call us all, as well, as provide some additional background on where we, knowledge workers, all come from (Traditional KM) and where we are heading (Knowledge Sharing = The Social Web).

Of particular interest to people out there, I am sure, would be slide #58 that covers some of traits knowledge workers need to have in order to extend that reach, far and beyond, from traditional interactions into the 2.0 world. Probably plenty of common sense for most of you out there, I can imagine, but, nevertheless, a good reminder of us all, so that we don’t deviate elsewhere and focus on what we need to focus: help provoke and facilitate that social transformation where our businesses transition from being labour based into being knowledge based; the so-called Knowledge Economy.

Thus without much further ado, and to inspire some further reflections and thinking time for all of us on this very same topic and the changes we will be witnessing and experiencing around Knowledge (Social) Web Work (By the way, I strongly recommend you also have a look into today’s very thought-provoking blog post by Harold Jarche on Jobs? We ain’t got no jobs on this very same subject related to knowledge workforce and which I will be blogging more in detail shortly…), I am going to leave you all with Steve’s presentation, stored over at Slideshare, wanting to thank as well the good folks from SocialCast for triggering that trip down the memory lane with such a wonderful resource as that infographic on “The Evolution of the Knowledge Worker“:

Ohhh, and for those folks who may be looking for some other interesting and rather relevant infographics on this topic, you may want to have a look into this other one, still related to Knowledge Workers, over at the Mindflash blog, put together by Colin Dobrin, under the title “Who Is The New Knowledge Worker?“, which makes a pretty good and compelling comparison of the knowledge worker of the 70s and the knowledge worker of the 21st century. Very helpful to see where we are coming from, and, perhaps much more importantly, where we are heading already … with no way back!

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Worth while sharing it along?

15 Comments »

  • Brian Driggs says:

    ¡Que bueno!

    I agree this is not the sort of thing which can be managed by anyone other than those who actively participate. Let everyone mingle, sharing what they know with one another. Let them self-organize, self-help, and self-police.

    Those who cannot trust, cannot be trusted. Where there is no trust, it’s exactly like that one slide suggested, “Goodbye tacit knowledge.”

    This post should be required reading for anyone involved in KM. You know what? Maybe we need better. Maybe we should let the closed minds continue to get by “managing.” Let’s shift our mindset to knowledge building, yeah?

    Cheers, Luis.

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    • Luis Suarez says:

      Hi Brian! Wonderful comments! Thanks a lot for dropping by and for sharing them along! I think you have hit the nail on the head with your commentary about “Those who cannot trust, cannot be trusted”. I think that’s just so spot on! And a clear signal of what needs to happen for Enterprise 2.0 to succeed within the corporate environment. We are all hard working professionals wanting to do a great job at what we do. It’ll be then that extra level of trust and trusting relationships that would help us acquire that level of engagement and participation to become those powerful knowledge workers we all have hidden inside, for far too long!, and start taking a bit more responsibility for what we are contributing to the organisation and to the business. But we need to get started at some point, and that some point, imo, like you have pointed as well is gaining trust.

      And most powerful way of gaining, acquiring and demonstrating that trust? Through social capital interactions promoted through social networking tools where with enough frictions we can help build that trustworthy, networked and interconnected knowledge workforce KM envisioned back in the day and re-applied today to Social Computing.

      Yes, I surely can’t wait for it to happen! Let’s do it! :)

      Thanks, Brian! Appreciated the commentary!

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  • Thanks for highlighting these slides, Luis, and for providing the additional context.

    I’m really trying to discipline myself these days to not be one of those “hey, check out *my* website” commenters on other people’s blogs. But I really need to point you to some work I’m doing that builds on the “wall” idea in Stephen’s slides. I’m playing with an interesting metaphor of a cell’s membrane as the thing that gives it autonomy and that also connects it with the world around it.The membrane is actually made of people – that is the intelligence of the organization – people. We are now moving to a world where the knowledge worker is increasingly focused on playing this connective role between what’s going on inside the firm and what going on outside it. That’s the intelligence of the modern firm.

    Anyway, here are the two relevant links:
    http://www.alchemyofchange.net/organizational_membranes/
    http://www.alchemyofchange.net/people-membrane/

    Sorry to be pointing outwards in my first post on your site, but it’s only because I’d be interested in your take. I’m glad to have found your site. Very interesting posts and great perspectives.
    – Gideon

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    • Luis Suarez says:

      Hi Gideon! Oh, no problem at all! Many thanks for dropping by and for sharing these lovely insights, specially, to such new concepts as those associated with membranes. Fascinating metaphor, indeed! I just peeked through the blog posts, but will be dedicating them a bit more attention in the next couple of days and provide a proper response, and must confess the whole metaphor of the membranes surely reminds me of one of the main traits from social networking: (being) porous; basically, agile, rather thing, permeating throughout, becoming the sticky glue of organisations, etc. etc.

      Sounds like you are on the right track of what could be described as agile, engaged, interconnected and transparent (social) business. Like I said, truly fascinating and will be dedicating more time to learn about it plenty more as well.

      Thanks much for this wonderful contribution! Looking forward to further interactions! :)

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  • Thanks so much, Luis. That’s very good of you. And yes, you’re absolutely right – there are all these great adjectives that come out of this view. You nailed the main one right off – porous. That is the big one. I too, will look forward to more exchanges.
    And let me just say, that I don’t know how someone manages to end up doing the kind of work you’re doing – while living on Gran Canaria…but sounds pretty cool. I’m sure there must be an interesting story there.

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    • Luis Suarez says:

      Hi Gideon, thanks for the follow up and for the nice comments! Yes, I knew it porous was going to be the killer one in that context, and why I will be looking forward into it to develop some further ideas in upcoming blog posts hehe Thanks for the inspiration!

      RE: Gran Canaria, yes, there is a story in there; 4 years of that experiment I started back then about ditching corporate email for good and use social software tools as a way to help improve the way I collaborate, share my knowledge across, but also an exercise of openness and transparency that allows my bosses to know what I am doing at all times and endorse such kind of teleworking concept. I have always doubted it would have happened by just using email, so glad we have got these social tools to prove it is possible to “live”, and enjoy, such corporate experiences :)

      Speak soon!

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  • Hi, Luis,
    like everything – again its the original post and the comments (the one bonmot about “trust” and the membrane metapher – like everything but the term “Knowledge Worker”, yes, I am also dropping a link: Why it is not enough to be a Knowledge Worker (as said many of the characteristics of the Knowledge Citizen have been mentioned): http://geraldmeinert.blogspot.com/2011/02/you-are-doing-your-job-define-your.html

    regards
    gerald

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    • Luis Suarez says:

      Hi Gerald, thanks a lot for adding further up another interesting and provocative reading! Actually, while I was reading through it, and giving our current focus on the use of The Social Web, I think it would be much more appropriate perhaps to work with the term “Knowledge Netizen”; I think it would be more descriptive of the kind of web knowledge those “workers” to not just be familiar with, but fully take advantage of… hehe

      Very interesting dropdown as well of what would be some of the main expectations behind such concept “Create, Condition, Connect, Capitalise” seem to validate a much more active and engaging role, i.e. a la co-creation taking full responsibility of perhaps the next generation of knowledge netizens! I like it! :)

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    • Great stuff, Gerald. I really like where you’re going with this and I totally agree. Once we move into a world where much of our value is networking information and people, work becomes more personal. It’s less about being an employee and more about being a citizen. Nicely put. I liked your post so much, I just tweeted it out.

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