Tag Archives: creativity

The 5 Types of Knowledge Workers (or 5 Ways to Use Knowledge)

who is a knowledge worker

What’s the objective of my blog? Help knowledge workers become peak learners.

Our environment is now changing so fast that knowing (static) has become less important than being able to know fast (dynamic).

But before looking at the how, let’s settle the what. What is a knowledge worker?

Here’s the definition put forward by the famous Peter Drucker: “Someone who knows more about his or her job than anyone else in the organization.”

Insightful, but a little vague.

A good way to grasp what defines these workers is to inspect their relation with knowledge. According to the knowledge management expert Tom Davenport, knowledge workers deal with knowledge in five different ways.

They can:

  1. create it
  2. find it
  3. package it
  4. distribute it
  5. apply it

Knowledge creators are the prime movers of all knowledge work. More than the four other types, creating takes place in the worker’s brain. Examples include researchers, authors and inventors.

Knowledge searchers are expert at quickly finding the right information for other users. Examples include librarians, intelligence analysts and head hunters.

Knowledge packagers put together the knowledge generated by creators. Their main purpose is to make other knowledge workers’ tasks more efficient. Examples include publishers, editors and designers.

Knowledge distributors communicate knowledge or create systems and processes to improve access to it. Examples include teachers, journalists and managers.

Knowledge appliers are at the end of the knowledge line. Their job is to use and reuse knowledge to accomplish specific goals. Examples include doctors, accountants and lawyers.

Before finding strategies to improve your performance and become a peak learner, you should first clarify what you generally do with knowledge at your job.

So what kind of knowledge worker are you?

Why I Turned Off Talk Radio and Tuned In to Music

music vs talk radio

Until recently, I looked down on people who listened to music while commuting.

What a waste of time. Why not make the most of this downtime by getting fresh news and opinions. Don’t you want to be the most informed person in the room? It’s enticing, but no thanks. As I’ve come to realize, such input gets you nowhere.

Yes, you guessed it. I’m a new convert of the low information diet. Here’s why.

Whenever you commute or operate on autopilot, your brain is on one of the three following modes. You either focus on what is in your head (deep thinking), on your environment (info receiving), or have no focus at all (mind wandering).

There’s no way you can become a peak learner if you don’t develop your thinking power, and that means making more room for the first mode.

No doubt, the acquisition of new information is crucial. As Benjamin Bloom showed, higher-order thinking skills feed on it. But a peak learner must filter and limit incoming information.

Tim Ferris nailed it when he said that a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention. And guess what? Attention is the fuel of deep, clear and creative thinking. So any new information that doesn’t make you think should be sorted out as entertainment. 

Finally, our third mode of thinking, mind wandering, shouldn’t be dismissed as totally worthless. For starters, it’s our brain’s default mode of operation (we typically spend almost half our time there). But more importantly, this mode is highly conducive to creative insights, as it fosters idea associations.

During downtimes, try to reduce information input and daydreaming, and engage in effective thinking (i.e. leading to an outcome), such as problem solving, problem finding and planning (for your next blog post for instance).

So next time you’re driving, do like me. Tune in to music (or turn off all noise) and start thinking.