Handling knowledge workers

It is rather frustrating to see how people who call themselves knowledge workers attempt to get work done out of other knowledge workers. Only one thing stands clear – THEY DO NOT KNOW WHO KNOWLEDGE WORKERS ARE! If they knew even a little bit, they wouldn’t be doing what they are doing. Let me explain.

I was privy to a senior academic (at least one who claims to be), trying to get something written out of a junior colleague. I had just heard her say (a few weeks back) about ethics and values. So it kind of gave me a glimpse to people who are normally called ‘hypocrites’. But it also told me that even after years of experience in the education system, this senior academic did not know how to get work done out of a knowledge worker. She attempted to use her power to get the work done. She believes or at least thats the expression she gave in her communication – that, I will force work down you and make you write what I need. Is it her ignorance or arrogance? I am sure she is pretty unread about knowledge workers, managing knowledge work, and ethics.

When I shared this with a few of my other academic friends, they did not seem surprised! They said academics like the one I had seen were not exceptions, but the norm. They even laughed at my innocence and told me that this was one of the biggest reasons why there is little respectable research output from this country. They remarked – People have no idea about knowledge work, knowledge creation and ethics. They simply churn the churned content and keep passing days. Sad, but true.

I am a knowledge worker. I know it really well. I normally spend most of my time in environments where knowledge based work is expected to happen. I am learning to produce research of the highest quality. I search for those few people who still move around our ‘temples of knowledge’ carrying within themselves values and ethics of a true knowledge worker. Rare, but they exist. If you meet people like these, you are lucky. But don’t give up. Search. You will find them.

As one with years of experience in knowledge driven enterprises, one thing that I can say for certain is that – you cannot manage knowledge workers, you can only lead them. I had written about this about a decade ago. (Knowledge worker community – over managed or under led?)

I wish to remind people that living in a knowledge driven society, trying to survive in a knowledge driven economy, it is not possible to force and threaten, to produce work. It is like locking up a designer and telling him that you will not give him his salary until he produces the work you want. Do you think this will work? Can you make an artist paint by holding him to ransom? At least a true knowledge worker will walk away. A true artist will not even wait to think. So, if you are one involved in knowledge based work, learn well today that ‘knowledge work’ can only be created voluntarily. ‘Knowledge workers’ can only be led, not managed. If you don’t do this, you will surround yourself with machines not minds.

Think about it.


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