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Are you a knowledge worker[i]?
“In a matter of decades, society altogether rearranges itself – its worldview, its basic values, its social and political structures, its arts, its key institutions. Fifty years later a new world exists. And the people born into that world cannot even imagine the world in which their grandparents lived and into which their own parents were born. Our age is such a period of transformation.”
Peter Drucker – 1992 Essay for Harvard Business Review
After some time spent learning and discovering the principles of Knowledge Management (KM), I thought it was an obvious matter to see its implementation in most businesses as something really great! A matter that any business would really strive to have and use.
Of course all of what I learned and understood relied on personal efforts, readings, attending courses and findings; I also had the privilege of the inspiring presence of my mentor. At the early stages of my exposure to KM, he most probably “saw” the beginner’s exuberance I expressed, therefore how many times I still remember I got a very understanding smile from him, where he used to comment with these words “In due time your will understand the difference between this ideal and the realities, let us focus now on what you need to learn”. Today I would say he was so right, when at that time I felt the ignorance any apprentice feels towards his master during the learning process.
When I shared my findings with people (co-workers, friends and family) I could see a different reaction than from my KM mentor. Apparently I was tagged as “Oh what’s new with him, another discovery!” that little polite smile told me well enough as they must found me somehow funny and entertaining especially through my verbal style. I knew this could also be annoying to hear me advocate for a knowledge culture and the principles of sharing. So when I shared with my mentor about my coworkers’ reluctance to feel the same motivation, he found another moment to teach me, in a very subtle manner, that KM was a “preach by example” thing!
Well, this example was offered when I received the mandate to develop a training program about KM, for my employer of that time. It was quite a challenge, I never developed a course of that type, besides I was not sure my project team mates did ever themselves. After some trial and error (more error than trial) the obvious was crystal clear: we had to start learning ourselves about KM, but also provide real life examples. From a traditional online (e-learning) course we were able to engage people into a journey where every person would discover about KM (Awareness) in her own way, according to her own preferences and own pace.
The buy in from management was also part of challenge, some wanted to measure the benefice and how worth was it versus the cost for developing this course. During the various presentations, I remembered the “preach by example” thing; seriously feedback did not wait to come in, I will always remember one of the executives said to the audience enough loud so everyone would hear “if that is the way you will train people, then I recommend that all the company’s training get the inspiration from the KM awareness course”! I learned in KM there is nothing for granted when you promote it, it works only when people feel engaged themselves and start expressing their understanding.
How challenging your life as a knowledge worker can be perceived at work?
I can assure you it is ways challenging. The challenges starting from you won self just noting that your thinking mode and solution solving is not the sae like your co-workers, besides your relationship with the management is all but harmony if you inherit of a structured minded manager who abides by the rules and regulation of hierarchy. This becomes obvious when your life within the team consist of following instructions and decisions (including the bonus of reporting every step to your manager). I am basing these words on my personal experiences throughout 30 years of consulting and working within teams in the education / training and KM industries. Among the few managers who knew my potential I was hardly managed yet led and challenged that is when I had the golden bridge not only to prove to deserve their trust moreover to earn it! In some other cases I discovered the hard way how uncomfortable it was to be managed with no means of innovative initiatives.
Am I a knowledge worker?
I think I am, now more than ever, when I look at my past in the workforce, all the good things I learned were possible when I was treated and led by people who saw in me such potential. I do not think I will ever regret such behaviour as it led me to so many rewarding discoveries.
To my own opinion I think that KM has reached its time to key changes, from the “Knowledge is power”, KM is also meant for the good of people, the benefit of businesses. KM is in need to grow, such growth means also (probably) a liberation from the rigid rules that some experts try to maintain it. KM is meant to become the given space to Knowledge workers who are defining today the foundation of a Social Knowledge Management more adapted to the realities of our times. It is true that KM is a strategic asset for businesses, in addition to such, it is also a cultural necessity that should start at school with students from early ages in parallel with their need to collect such knowledge adapted to what will be their world 20 years from now. Such is the dynamic of changes we have been the witnesses since the first expressions of KM in the caves of Lascaux, when our ancestors shared with us how to work together for the survival of their own kind (The drawings they left us on how to hunt bigger preys).
Are you knowledge learners?
I think we are all knowledge workers, if I refer to Evan Rosen in his article from the Business week (Every worker is a knowledge worker- January 11, 2011):
In a collaborative organization, on the other hand, all workers’ knowledge counts, regardless of their roles. Every team member contributes, shares knowledge, and participates in making decisions, whether he or she is loading crates, designing products, servicing customer accounts, creating tactical marketing plans, or determining long-term strategy. And most important, information flows in multiple directions rather than cascading from senior leadership down through multiple levels of management to front-line people.
Michel – March 6, 2015
- What Peter Drucker knew about 2020 (https://hbr.org/2014/10/what-peter-drucker-knew-about-2020/) October, 16, 2014
- Peter Drucker Institute (http://www.druckerinstitute.com/peter-druckers-life-and-legacy/)
- Every worker is a knowledge worker (Business Week – Evan Rosen – January 11, 2011) http://www.businessweek.com/managing/content/jan2011/ca20110110_985915.htm
[i] Knowledge workers are workers whose main capital is knowledge. Typical examples may include software engineers, doctors, architects, engineers, scientists, public accountants, lawyers, and academics, whose job is to “think for a living”.