Monday, August 22, 2005

The Knowledge Worker

The Knowledge Worker- Definition, Quotes from other reads and some thoughts

Recently, i have been hearing statements made by colleagues and friends that "You need to be a knowledge worker to thrive in today's competitive job market." When i talk to some folks who work in the IT sector in India, they also quote that "Knowledge Management" is catching up big time in the Indian corporate world. So, there goes my topic for this blog.......

Definition of Knowledge Worker:

Peter Drucker, one of the gurus in People Management coined the term 30 years ago. A knowledge worker (KW) is an employee who adds value and brings in more talent to the company by processing existing information to create new information that could be used to solve problems. The primary role of a knowledge worker is to analyze the information that will help him or her make decisions that will benefit the group. The KW is someone who works well in a team by sharing information, is always interested in learning new stuff and willing to experiment with by taking risks and expects to learn from their mistakes instead of being criticized for them.

Examples and Types of Knowledge Workers:

Lawyers, Engineers, Doctors, Bankers..etc everyone who is in a profession where they make use of their intelligence to convert their ideas into services, products and processes for their organization are called knowledge workers.

Drucker, Peter. Management’s new paradigms. Forbes, 1998, 5 October. (reference)

There can be 2 distinct types of knowledge workers for practical purposes:

1. Core Knowledge workers- Those in specific knowledge management roles with those job titles such as Chief Information Officer, Librarians, Knowledge Analyst, Content Managers etc.

2. "Everyone Else" -Constitutes all other knowledge workers such as engineers, doctors, managers, administrators etc, ie everyone engaged in some form of Knowledge work.

Thoughts and short story:

Employee A and Employee B started their career with company STARS in the same year. Both of them had similar masters degrees from good schools and had the same kind of hopes, dreams and aspirations as any other youngster. Today, five years after their career with STARS, A was still hoping for his long-waited promotion and pay raise, while B had already barged into higher circles with better projects, more pay and title change on his way. Feeling remorseful and bitter about his lack of growth and envious of B's success, A blamed STARS for being partial. A also started feeling that B was "sucking up" to senior management by seeing B's constant luncheons and meetings with the higher-ups.

Finally, one fine day, A decided to knock at his manager's office and asked him the reason behind his lack of progress and B's growth. "We have the same qualifications, we put in the same hours and have similar experience. But, why is that B is treated differently from the rest and is lucky?"The manager replied saying "This is so because B is a knowledge worker".

The differences being that while A was a hard-worker who worked quietly in his cube. B was motivated, out-going and independent enough to put forth his ideas in group meetings. More than talking, B ventured out to take risks and find solutions. He established processes and even though he was not successful all the time, he learnt from his errors. B made an effort not to repeat past mistakes and also to share ideas across the board.

Moral: In today's economy and competitive work environment, companies want to retain employees who are knowledge workers. The knowledge worker is self-motivated to acquire knowledge and deliver his best for his team!!!Comments and suggestions on this topic are welcome...........................

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