The concept of knowledge workers being the key to competitive advantage in a global landscape where firms must be capable of quick adaptation, flexibility and innovation is not new. However, I would offer that the promise of the knowledge worker has yet to materialize and it is not only due to poor economics but also the slow realization of leaders that information is now the asset that best predicts success.
Also required to change is how each employee must enhance their capabilities; they will have to be extraordinarily skilled, flexible, and self-sufficient. The first two areas are a reasonable expectation in that information attainment and knowledge creation are the primary assets of this century; the third criteria may be a bit more difficult. It seems clear that organizational capabilities are based upon knowledge and that the use of this knowledge results in a competency that can be seen as a strategic advantage. Human capital must take precedence over other any other type as it is the only asset that can grow from its own volition. Organizations can certainly foster learning however it is individuals who take information interpret its utility in the context of the current environment and then provide knowledge.
I see three distinct sets of knowledge employees; the creative class, free-agents and then unfortunately the have-nots. The creative class consists of people who add economic value through their creativity. Along with problem solving their work may entail problem finding; not just building a better mousetrap but noticing first that a better mousetrap would be beneficial. Free agents are “soloists” who have a portfolio of clients, assignments and roles in many organizations. Their value is diversification of skills and the ability to help the creative class member’s ideas come to fruition due to that diversification.
Now the bad news, the “have-nots.” The downside; or my perceived bias that it is a downside, as the have-nots are those stuck in service jobs. I use the term “stuck” with the connotation that they would prefer to be in the other two categories whilst they may not. Service jobs would offer more consistency, structure and less decision making and that may be appropriate and desired for many.
Hosnavi, R. & Ramezan, M. (2011). Intellectual Capital and Organizational Organic Structure How are these Concepts Related? Trends in Applied Sciences Research, 6(3), 256-268.
Martinez-Leon, I. & Martinez-Garcia, J. (2011). The influence of organizational structure on organizational learning. International Journal of Manpower, 32(5), 537-566.
Florida, R. (2002). The Rise of the Creative Class. New York: Basic Books.
Pink, D. (2001). Free Agent Nation: How America’s New Independent Workers are Transforming the Way We Live. New York: Time Warner.