Here’s an idea I’ve been kicking around for a while. The knowledge worker manifesto:

  1. Despite short-term ups and downs, there are not enough skilled workers to meet employer demand.
  2. This applies equally to industries, companies, departments, economic regions and nations.
  3. It is unlikely to change in the near future, despite economic turmoil.
  4. Knowledge workers are mobile.
  5. The go out the door each night. Employers are lucky if they come back the next morning.
  6. With limitations, most can work for almost any employer they choose anywhere in the world.
  7. Many companies and countries welcome knowledge workers with open arms.
  8. Any form of discrimination will cut your available pool of knowledge workers.
  9. Many knowledge workers who are not discriminated against, will think twice about working for a bigot.
  10. Regardless of value judgements about right and wrong, bosses, companies, political leaders and nations that do not treat knowledge workers with respect, are unlikely to keep their services.
  11. Employers should assume rivals are already trying to woo their knowledge workers.
  12. All other things being equal (they’re not, let’s imagine for a moment they are) knowledge workers’ skills go to the highest bidder.
  13. The bidder need not necessarily offer more cash.
  14. One of the inequalities is tax. Nations that tax knowledge workers too highly compared with other countries can expect a brain drain. Many countries are already face this.
  15. Knowledge workers need other things governments can supply such as education.
  16. A strong educational system is essential for a knowledge economy. It attracts knowledge workers from elsewhere.
  17. So does a good telecommunications infrastructure.
  18. In most countries industry doesn’t seem capable of delivering this without a kick up the backside. Politicians: If you want a knowledge economy start kicking.
  19. While Free markets are important, the Asian experience suggests they are not essential.
  20. Likewise political freedom.
  21. Business incubators can help get a knowledge-based business culture off the ground.
  22. A culture of recognising and rewarding intellectual achievement helps.
  23. America is not the only knowledge economy. It is not the only workable model.

I’ll add other points as I think of them. Maybe you can help. Is there something obvious belonging here that I’m missing?

7 thoughts on “Knowledge worker manifesto: first draft

  1. Knowledge workers can work from anywhere at any hour, on individual or team projects.

  2. You could add something about the fact that changing country is relatively easy because English is the predominant business language for the internet and computers. I’m not just saying this, I’ve experienced it for myself!

  3. With respect, I think you miss the point of what a “knowledge economy” might be and, therefore, how a “knowledge worker” might fit in to it.

    In a barter economy, items are traded at agreed estimated values – two horses for a milk cow, say, or 1 set of tax returns for 2 hours work in the garden. Doesn’t matter if it’s goods or services.

    In a cash economy, the values are more formal, and trade is for cash. There is no credit economy – there has to be cash at some point, as the world financial markets have found out in the last two years.

    The key point here is that the type of economy is defined by what makes the trade worthwhile – the item of currency. Whether cows or dollars depends on the market.

    In a true “knowledge economy”, the item of value is knowledge. That’s what gets traded. Without an accurate definition of a “knowledge economy”, you can’t formulate a manifesto. What you’re talking about is a set of skilled workers who can manipulate information in order to commoditise it, to the point that someone is prepared to pay for their services. But it’s still part of the cash economy.

    When you can talk about what a real knowlege economy looks like, you will start to understand what a knowledge worker is, in my opinion. Your manifesto is a series of warnings to old school employers and call to action for the government. It actually has nothing to do with the workers.

    • @Mark – I see what you mean. Yes I am thinking very much in terms of the point where knowledge work intersects with the real world because ultimately that’s what matters to individuals.

      You can’t eat knowledge. You can buy food (and other stuff) if you convert knowledge work to cash. You can’t do that effectively if employers behave stupidly and get in the way.

      Of course, there’s more to being a knowledge worker than money, conditions and respect, but I suspect what you are thinking about sits on a higher plane. I’m not dismissing it, I’m just focused elsewhere at the moment.

  4. Fair enough. I’m still thinking about this one, really. I just get peeved by loose terminology. Terminology defines the debate.

    We talk about knowledge this and knowledge that, but I think we’re still talking about information, rather than knowledge. I am working on an article about this. I’ll let you know when it’s done, but it’s not huge priority at the moment, so don’t turn blue waiting 😉

  5. You might include the statement that highly experienced knowledge workers are adaptable across knowledge areas, within certain constraints- they’re not as narrowly qualified as their last job title or degree name might indicate. For instance as a broadly knowledgeable health researcher I have been able to write proposal documents for business areas in many areas of the sciences (eg. designing a self-sustaining agricultural village in the Iraqi desert), not just about mental health. Knowledge workers often have great project management skills (some without formal certificates etc) because discovering and creating knowledge requires managing many streams of activity across different areas. Knowledge workers can also be great problem solvers when IT people think too narrowly!

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