Friday, March 24, 2017

A world full of knowmads in 2020?

John Moravec was the first to coin the term knowmad in the book Knowmad society. In this Tedtalk John poses an interesting statement about the 'rise of the knowmad'.  "In 2020 45% of the workforce will be knowmads". Eh 2020? That's already in 3 years time! Hurry up?

On what basis is this 45% calculated? Who are these other 55%? And what type of organization is attractive for knowmads? It was great that John Moravec himself participated in the MOOC from Minneapolis and we could just ask any questions and the next morning we read his answers.

Towards meaningful work
Previously you did your whole life the same work and preferably for the same boss. My father worked his whole life to repair and maintain army tanks and did this till he retired. Developing yourself was less important. The transformation from industrial society to the society knowmad brings along a new mindset towards work. In today's knowledge society personal knowledge is becoming more important. A knowmad not slavishly performing a job for a boss, but is looking for work that is meaningful to him / herself. Work in which you can find a personal connection. An example illustrating that the core of the knowmad lies in the connection to your own passion: "I was a knowmad a decade ago but adjusted me to what was expected of me, family, employer, society Hopefully there will be more. space for knowmads! " 

The famous 45% in 2020
John explains that we are talking about an estimate, not a measurement. 45% knowmads 2020 is a best guess, based on trends such as the growing number of independent workers, flexible work, intrapreneurship, etc. In the US, the estimated numer is 35-40% at present. The challenge with this figure is that it is difficult to measure, and that an OECD project would be necessary to collect all the data and compare. Some in the MOOC think that 45% is on the high side, but recognize the trends we are talking about. "I see the changes in the direction of the knowmad society: as more hybrid structures, professionals working independently and combining this with their work as part-time employee for example." The changing context of work driven by technological changes, think about robotics, drives us to work more knowmadic, we have to adapt and learn.

An important critical note: 'knowing how to find your way with knowledge' seems to become more important, but it can also create a gap between those who succeed and the rest. A new elite of knowmads? The have and havenot? Racquel Roca has written a Spanish book about knowmads which I am currently reading. She sees the middle class disappearing, A trend which Lynda Gratton also describes. The increasing possibility of working virtually makes it possible for any citizen to become a knowmad working globally. This means that the past advantageous position of Europe and North America will be lost. A positive vision for the future is "major jobs will be taken over by robots and machine learning, let's organize a basic income for all and learn will become a hobby!" ;)

By the way, the knowmad is an archetype. There is a continuum between the old and the ideal worker knowmad. Knowmads come in all shapes and sizes, but few will correspond 100% to the above-described ideal image.

Is the plumber a knowmad?
Of course, the conversation was also about 55%. Are these the less educated, the butcher, the attendant at the nursing home, the cleaner? Not necessarily, the majority opinion was: blue collar work can be very knowmadic. For example, an electrician could not find the problem, made a quick photo and shared it with its online network. Within 10 minutes he received answer from a colleague and he can solve the problem. This is also knowmadic problem-solving.

Online and offline knowmads
Can you be knowmad without online skills? Tiffany Motton think about 25 to 45% of the professionals might be seen as knowmadic, but lack digital skills: they could be seen as offline Knowmads. However, it would be a paradox that people with a knowmadic mindset, open and curious would  overlook the wonderful online opportunities.  Online information overload is a challenge for the knowmad. "At times I feel completely overwhelmed by all the sources. Am I therefore less of a knowmad?" Another challenge is the need for deep thinking and get out your information bubble. Is a knowmad in a bubble a real knowmad or it is crucial that he/she fosters diversity in his network?

Which organization welcomes the knowmad?  
Perhaps we will welcome 45% knowmads in 2020 ... but I wonder how many organizations in 2020 are capable to welcome knowmads. Which organization are best knowmads? Knowmads are not all the same: some seek more authoritarian structure than others. Many are seeking space for development and self determination. A system as Holacracy works in some cases but not everywhere. Startups and smaller organizations can work knowmadic, but what about the larger, more bureaucratic organizations ?. "I work for a large company. I see that we are becoming more hybrid. The work and the process is standardized in a part of the organization and will be done by robots within a few years. Innovation is located in another part where people work in several teams with methods such as agile and scrum. That's the part which will speak to knowmads" Larger organizations (both government and businesses) want to be agile and experiment with spin-offs, working with a network ring. As one participant said: "I think that the organizations is no longer the unit we need to focus on: focus on networks" Slowly, more and more knowmads will enter 1.0 organizations. What influence will they have on these organizations? Will they affect the structure and culture? Or will knowmads leave and start to look for an organization that suits them better? The leadership in the organization must also overhauled: Knowmads want inspiring, authentic leaders, work in co-creation with them and leaders with an eye for their development. A pitfall thereby may be that as organization you may have embraced an agile way of working, but it does not mean yet that the leadership has really changed.

The future is here
We conclude this topic two quotes. First a quote from Lincoln via a participant: "The best way to predict your future is to create it". We can work together on these changes. And John emphasize that it is not an abrupt revolution which will take place in three years. Waking up in 2020 as knowmads. This change is already underway. Or as William Gibson says, "the future is here, it's just unevenly distributed."


If you can read Dutch or use Google translate there are more blogs about 'Werken als knowmad' in Dutch: