What is Knowledge Work?

Productivity and innovation create wealth in a knowledge economy. These essential elements of a knowledge economy derive from the knowledge that each worker is able to provide.  Therefore, each worker must be prepared to share, develop, and apply individual knowledge.  All members of an organization or initiative contribute from their individual specific expertise and knowledge.  All are accountable as holders of a unique set of thinking and frames of knowledge.  As they work together, their integrated perspectives build unique value towards a common goal.  In this way they are both productive and innovative.

An educated person in the past was considered to be a thinker, developing and discussing concepts of the “greater good,” a better life, a better society, and so forth.  An educated person in the knowledge economy must be able to develop these concepts and apply them to situations that need improvement.

Those educated to be knowledge workers must develop and refine the following skills,  which allow them to apply their respective knowledge to current problems. They include:

  • Context
  • Communication
  • Collaboration
  • Critical thinking and decision making
  • Networking
  • Results orientation
  • Innovation

Mastering and using these skills ensures that knowledge workers build five essential characteristics: knowledge workers are autonomous, are assets to the organization, are project and results oriented, are quality and quantity focused, and continuously learn through evaluation.

So all 21st century work must be designed as knowledge work.  The first step in doing knowledge work is to build these skills in an experiential learning, real-world context through the development of a project.

Projects Produce Knowledge Work!

Student-designed projects create a platform for developing and mastering knowledge work skills, which produce targeted results.

The design of a project calls for the use of all seven knowledge work skills.  The project  includes: a project objective and desired result, current and future state gap analysis, stakeholder identification, milestones and metrics, implementation plan, resources, and consideration of special circumstances.  These components  are all planned and implemented with the end-in-mind so that all work is relevant and contributing to the desired result.

To specifically align the knowledge work skills to the project steps, consider the following connections:

Project Objective context
Desired Result critical thinking, innovation
Current state critical thinking
Gap to desired result critical thinking, decision making
Stakeholders networking, communication
Milestones and metrics critical thinking, results orientation
Implementation plan collaboration
Resources, current and needed critical thinking, innovation
Special circumstances context

Projects integrate knowledge work skills to ensure that desired results are met, and often exceeded.