Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Knowledge, Skills and Abilities, Oh My!

Part one: This is the first of a four-part series of blogs that will examine, compare and contrast the knowledge, skills and abilities of the agrarian-age worker, the industrial-age worker and the knowledge-age worker. Let us consider the following competencies: time management, problem solving, strategic planning and critical thinking.

As an introduction, let us consider key characteristics of the three workers:
  1. The agrarian worker had a temporal focus. Completion of the work required the passage of time. The crops didn’t grow over the course of one eight-hour shift; it took months. The harvest may change, but the location of the harvest stayed the same; the agrarian worked the same plot of ground year after year, and even generation after generation, but planted different crops on a rotating basis. Workers were connected to the land and the crop (i.e. product) and saw the seasons and cycles of life as the natural unfolding of the universe; respect, wisdom, history and folk lore were cherished and endowed by the passage of time.
  2. The industrial-age worker has a task-centered focus. Completion of the work requires the completion of the individual’s task, with the task being repeated many times in the eight-hour shift. The task and the location stay the same year after year. The worker has a place in the line and cannot move the task to a separate location because the act of un-sequencing the task will negatively affect everyone’s task downstream on the line. The worker is connected to the line and views the task as primary and unconnected to the other tasks performed in the process of completing the product. The industrial worker sees time as a commodity (time is money) and has a narrow focus on the impact of the task as it relates to the whole. Problems are local and solutions to problems cannot be generalized across the organization.
  3. The knowledge-age worker will have a 10,000-foot view of the work. This worker will see connections and webs. The work will be project-based and will dovetail with other knowledge workers in local and remote locations. Work will be done anywhere, any time. Work will be performed on-demand and out of sequence but all the pieces will still fit together for the final product. The work will be more cerebral in approach; ideas and knowledge will be more important than location. Connections to the work, the concept and the project at hand will be the supreme concern.Loyalty to the concept or the idea of the project will remain intact as the workers move from project to project. The knowledge worker will make connections about how their knowledge can have impact across systems, geographic borders and academic disciplines.
What is your organization doing to prepare for the knowledge worker who will be entering your workforce?

Note: Look for part two of this series to further examine how selected the skills are related to the agrarian worker.


  1. Interesting! What is your office doing to accommodate the knowledge worker?

  2. We are in the process of designing new programs and new delivery methods to address the knowledge gaps of workers in the knowledge economy and we are preparing for non-traditional content delivery methods.

  3. Fascinating! I wonder what this might mean in relationship to working across systems and geographic boundaries and our local governments that are based on 200 year old borders?

  4. Fran, what an interesting question! I do believe the young people of today think across boundaries. As they enter adulthood, we may see an entirely different culture emerge. WKS