About forty years ago, Peter Drucker brought the idea of the knowledge worker to the workplace. Defining the knowledge worker as someone who works primarily with information and/or who develops and uses knowledge in the workplace, Drucker pushed the whole discipline of organizational management into a new space.
It was the beginning of a new age, an age in which workers moved from working with their hands (agriculture, industry) to working with their minds. What a concept! And what a splendid opportunity for the educated worker who wanted to think about his or her work while pursuing a paycheck!
We know the basics:
- If an organization is to succeed, it must be structured and managed as a knowledge culture
- Knowledge services is the organizational management methodology that converges information management, knowledge management (KM), and strategic learning
- The knowledge culture builds on and is supported by knowledge services
Understanding this, we’ve become pretty skilled at dealing with knowledge in the workplace. We know what knowledge is (although many of us define it differently), and since we’re trying to deal with knowledge in an organizational or business management framework, many people – as we do at our company – make defining knowledge a little easier by thinking about knowledge in terms of knowledge assets. It’s not uncommon in management circles these days to hear people speaking about knowledge assets (and, yes, SMR International has given attention to the subject, in a white paper published in December, 2008). At our company, we define a knowledge asset as “any collected information or knowledge within the larger enterprise that is used to help the organization achieve its goals.” We also very carefully point out that all operational units create and retain knowledge assets, not just business units concerned with research.
But whether we’re speaking about “KM,” “knowledge services,” “the knowledge culture,” or “knowledge asset management,” when we’re interacting with colleagues (and management) in the workplace, who knows what we’re talking about? What are we saying? What do these phrases mean to the knowledge worker in the next cubicle? Does anybody else care about knowledge management, knowledge services, or managing knowledge assets? Or in managing the company as a knowledge culture? Of course they do, but they probably don’t use these terms.
What terms do they use? What do they say when they are trying to figure out how the company dealt with this issue the last time it came up? Or when a corporate threat looms and everyone has an opinion but no one has the facts? What do they do? What do they say they are looking for?
So my quest is very simple: how can we take what we do to another level, all this energy being focused on knowledge management, knowledge services, and the knowledge culture? How can we make knowledge asset management everyone’s job?
Postscript: Actually, “redux” is probably not to most accurate word for the title here, since “redux” means something along the lines of “bringing back” or “reinstating.” That’s not really been the case with the idea of the knowledge worker. The knowledge worker hasn’t gone anywhere, so we’re really not concerned about bringing back the idea of the knowledge worker. Now we are more about expanding, you might say, the professional and academic and experiential insight we’ve developed over the past 40 years. Now we’re trying to figure out how we move KM, knowledge services, and the organizational knowledge culture beyond the academic and the professional. How do we move knowledge into the working habits of the office manager, the IT support staff, the HR file clerk, the records manager, the marketing support staff, the regulatory compliance specialist, the editorial assistant? What do we do next?