Monday, June 8, 2009

This is NOT the Knowledge Age

In 1966, Peter Drucker described the knowledge worker in contrast to the manual worker. The knowledge worker is one who works primarily with information or one who develops and uses knowledge in the workplace. This type of worker is a product of the Knowledge Age described by Savage in 1995 as "the third wave of human socio-economic development". The first two being, the Agricultural Age and the Industrial Age. This third wave points to a time when the majority of workers will deal in information. They will work with their minds more than their hands. In the Agricultural Age land meant power and in the Industrial Age, factories meant power. In the Knowledge Age, knowledge is power.

The fact is, the United States has been in the Knowledge Age since the 1950s. At this time the number of white collar workers began to exceed the number of blue collars workers. The Information Age (as it was known then) began. This is the decade that brought us the mainframe and many other business technologies that are still in some form used today.

If knowledge equals power in the Knowledge Age, how do the powerful give away knowledge to get more powerful? Many of the blogs that I read and the twits I follow freely give away the knowledge they have. When they do, they are considered experts and grow more powerful as their standing in the community is raised and their demand increased. We have grown beyond the Knowledge Age. Thanks to web 2.0, all knowledge is shared. Wether it is a blog, a tweet, or just a posting I can google, it's shared. Having the knowledge is no longer powerful. How to aggregate the data and use it to create new ideas is powerful. We are now entering the Creation Age. In the Creation Age, creativity is power.

If you are a knowledge worker, there are two things to do to reach the next level of career evolution.
  1. Recognize that you may not be a knowledge worker: Just because you work with data does not automatically make you a knowledge worker. You may be acting as a manual laborer pushing paper instead of operating a wrench. Anybody can be taught to use a wrench, if what you do doesn't have a value add then you are the 21st century equvilant of a manual laborer. You too will be replaced by automation, just as factory workers were replaced at the end of the Industrial Age. Avoid this fate by differentiating your work from what other people can offer.
  2. Give away the knowledge: Since knowledge is not power, give it away. The more you share the information, the more indispensable you become. It sounds counter-intuitive, but it's worked for many already. Giving away the knowledge lets people know you are the expert. Now instead of maintaining knowledge and educating each individual about pieces of your expertise, you can concentrate on growing your abilities and creating something new.
2008 was all about the mash-up. Writing the music is good. Combining it is genius.

The same wave will transcend art and be adopted by business and education in 2010.

Welcome to the Creation Age.

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