It's the End of an Era - Enter the Knowledgeable Networker

/// It’s the End of an Era – Enter the Knowledgeable Networker

February 14, 2013  |  Blog

We’ve all read about the era of the knowledge worker. These employees have the information, experience, and skills necessary to accomplish everyday tasks, while also rising to the challenge of the out-of-the-ordinary opportunities. In his description of the knowledge worker, Stephen Covey quoted former Microsoft CTO Nathan Myhrvold as saying that this type of software developer was 10,000 times more productive than other developers.

With the speed of change today, this concept remains relevant but has already become stale. Knowledge workers have always been – and will continue to be vitally important but their era of supremacy is over.

Today, no organization can hire all the knowledge workers it needs to cover every emerging need. Companies are generating exabytes of information. In 2013 alone, we’ll generate more data than we have in the previous 5,000 years combined. An individual or self-contained group of individuals may know all the vital facts of their field in this very instant, but the speed of change can make their knowledge obsolete in the next instant – or even add volumes of new knowledge to the mix. No single group or individual can know it all and stay on top of it all.

So, we now have a new era emerging: The era of the knowledgeable networker. Knowledgeable networkers are very good at what they do, and at the same time, do not pretend to know it all. They consider the entire puzzle, not just their own area of expertise. They’re integrative thinkers with broad interests and connections. They see how puzzle pieces fit together without needing to know everything about each piece – instead, they KNOW A LOT OF PEOPLE and HAVE A LOT OF INFORMATION SOURCES. They have instant access to multiple knowledge workers via a phone call, email, Twitter post, or LinkedIn InMail. They can bring experts and expertise into a team, a department, or organization to fulfill a specific need or help seize an opportunity.

The knowledgeable networker can also seek out, find, assimilate, and translate useful information into workable solutions. I recently heard a great example of this on the radio. A teenager’s TV broke. His parents wouldn’t buy another and he was saving every penny from his part-time job for college. After going to the local electronics store for repair, he learned it would cost less to buy a new TV than have them repair the old one. But neither solution was low-cost. He then got on the Internet, discovered this was a common problem with that TV model, found videos on YouTube, and a few weeks later, for a lot less money, he fixed his TV on his own.

This type of knowledge networking is already commonplace today. A group got connected on the Internet and crowd-sourced the design of a car. Project managers brought teams of experts together to build something amazing. They went from conceptual design to working prototype in a year. Even the best car companies take ten years to accomplish the same tasks.

If you don’t think the implications of this will affect your company culture, just consider how long it took your organization to accomplish your latest large-scale initiative. Could it have happened faster if people stepped outside their silos to network?

We all have networks and can search the Internet to find good information (e.g., Khan Academy). But as leaders, if we want this thinking to thrive in our organizations, it’s critically important that we cultivate a culture that rewards this practice of ‘bringing the outside in.’ Insular groups, teams that rely on internal doctrines, and those who punish people who reach out beyond the walls of their cubicles will find themselves watching as organizations with cultures that embrace outside resources are feasting on their lunch.

More and more, our organizations will become a network-of-networks: people who stay connected with one another and reach out for knowledge or expertise when needed. Organizations full of knowledge workers will continue to exist, there is no doubt, but how they operate with those knowledge workers will change. Some organizations fully staffed with knowledge workers will fail because those employees are not networked internally to share the developing knowledge of their own organization.

In a faster-and-faster moving world, the ability to tap your team members’ or former colleagues’ networks to bring expertise to a situation and then set it free, will allow your organization to be faster, more nimble, and more capable than ever before.

So … how good is your network?

Link: It’s the End of an Era – Enter the Knowledgeable Networker


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