Monday, 10 November 2008

Concept Worker

Daniel Pink's book A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future contains a description of new age - the Conceptual Age.

He describes how our society has gone from agricultural to industrial to the information age. But then he describes how we've really moved on past that to a new age where the dominant value for most organizations are created by high-end knowledge workers working on concepts. He calls them creators and empathizers. That is to make emphasis on his focus on the right-brain aspects. But, I actually think we should be focused on the emphasis on the type of knowledge work and the type of workers. In other words...

Concept Work

Concept Worker

I've often been a little bothered by the fact that we categorize the a person working in a call center handling customer service requests in the same category as an engineer working in R&D - they are both called knowledge workers. That's not as helpful as it should be. The person in the call center does quite a bit of routine knowledge work. They will occasionally encounter unusual situations and then need to do more conceptual knowledge work. To me it's all about how easy it is to obtain the answers. The harder it is, the more conceptual. Certainly our work around Work Literacy is all about concept work and concept workers.

I'm sure that if I went back and looked at Davenport's Thinking for a Living: How to Get Better Performances And Results from Knowledge Workers and the various categorizations of knowledge workers he would have several ways to describe the difference between someone in a call center and the engineer and the doctor. And while these are more granular, I'm not sure I hear much of it being discussed. That's why I'm liking the idea of referring to work that involves figuring out unknowns as concept work and the people doing this work as concept workers. This more succinctly and clearly differentiates the issue for me.

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