06 Jan And the “what is a knowledge worker” battle continues to rage
I have to say, I still agree with Matthew. Identifying both knowledge work and workers is and remains crucial. I think Shawn’s false dichotomy argument is spurious; he seems to want to have a situation where those that identify as knowledge workers in whatever way are framing themselves as some form of elite with a non-knowledge worker underclass. It’s simply not the case.
Especially given Shawn’s argument about the ubiquity of knowledge work, there is only us. If we need information and knowledge and communication in our work, we are all knowledge workers – butcher, baker, candlestick maker.
And yes, the definitions, as grey as they can be, are necessary to communicate meaning to those who do not identify knowledge work and knowledge workers, yet are dealing with the attendant issues. And thewre are many, many organisations that Matthew and I encounter that have huge issues with KM, knowledge work (and what it is or isn’t) and knowledge workers (and who they are or aren’t).
My personal view is that if, and I’ve said this in both my Knowledge Worker 2.0 talks this year (at the IIM National Conference and at Office 2.0), you create, consume or leverage knowledge or information in the course of your work each day, you are a knowledge worker. This absolutely gels with Shawn’s identification of non-traditional roles as having a knowledge component just as much as it agrees with Matthew’s reframing of JJG’s IA Recon thus:
Knowledge work is an activity that can be practiced by people in a wide variety of roles. Knowledge work can be designed to achieve a wide variety of goals, not just information retrieval. The single most important factor in the success of knowledge work is the skill of the knowledge worker. This skill is applied through a combination of experienced professional judgment, thoughtful consideration of research findings, and disciplined creativity. This skill can be developed and applied by specialist knowledge workers and non-specialists alike.
Matthew also mentions the struggle going on in the BA world where the definition of what a BA is and does is also the subject of much debate and conjecture. Matthew and I work with people who self identify or do so professionally as either IAs or BAs, yet we encounter with ever-increasing frequency a set of roles, tasks and disciplines that when done well, look very similar.
I think actually that Matthew and Shawn agree on a large number of points, it’s just that they are viewing the concept through differently colored lenses.