Thursday 10 January 2008

Is all modern work, knowledge work?

I'm still in holiday mode, but did notice this exchange about the term, Knowledge Worker, involving Shawn at Anecdote, Stephen at Acidlabs, Matthew Hodgson and Dave Snowden. Shawn's original argument was that:

"Today all work is knowledge work because even the most manual of activities such as farmer digging post holes for a fence requires pre-planning using their spatial information system, the use of GPS to position the hole and entry of data when it's done. The ubiquity of technology is one major factor that makes everyone a knowledge worker."

I'm not sure if this adds any direct value to the conversation above, but it did make me think of this news story I read the other day about workplace boredom:

"Monotonous jobs with limited opportunities to shine are driving an increasing number of workers to distraction and costing employers dearly in lost productivity, experts say. Psychologists have given the phenomenon a name – rust-out – to describe those who 'waste away, unchallenged and uninspired' at their desks. In an article in British magazine The Psychologist, workplace expert Dr Sandi Mann says the problem is becoming an epidemic because modern jobs are far too predictable, 'reducing work to a formula'. 'Many jobs in the past that involved skill use, decision-making and contact with people can now be achieved with the press of a few boring buttons,' Dr Mann says."

I'm not so sure that all work in the developed world is "knowledge" work. In fact I've always been partial to Charles Handy's Shamrock organisation concept from the Age of Unreason (briefly described here), while not a perfect model (after all, it pre-dates the Google era) to me suggests that the knowledge economy still consists of different types of work - some is knowledge intensive, and some are intensive around different types of knowledge or knowledge problems.

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