Shawn Calla­han of Anec­dote argues that the need for the term knowl­edge worker is redun­dant now that tech­nol­ogy is ubiq­ui­tous in the devel­oped world and that almost every worker trades in knowl­edge of some sort. He sees its use as a way to dis­crim­i­nate between iden­ti­fied knowl­edge work­ers and those whose roles are not tra­di­tion­ally viewed this way:

It’s an dark under­cur­rent and tac­itly becomes a basis for dis­crim­i­na­tion. “Our sales­peo­ple are knowl­edge work­ers but our gas fit­ters are not.” I sus­pect this feel­ing of supe­ri­or­ity comes from the erro­neous data-​​information-​​knowledge model where knowl­edge (and even more ridicu­lously, wis­dom) sits at the pin­na­cle of the pyramid.

I see where Shawn is going with his argu­ment, par­tic­u­larly in devel­oped nations. But I agree with Matthew Hodg­son, who puts forth an alter­na­tive posi­tion that Shawn’s views are mis­placed. Matthew argues that Shawn misses an oppor­tu­nity to com­mu­ni­cate an under­stand­ing of knowl­edge work out­ward from the insider com­mu­nity to the larger work­force and organ­i­sa­tional man­age­ment who don’t nec­es­sar­ily label them­selves as knowl­edge work­ers — “Oh, no! I work in marketing/​HR/​finance/​logistics/​whatever.”

I have mas­sive respect for both Shawn and Matthew. They are both thought lead­ers in the KM com­mu­nity and I think it’s good for us as a group to have robust dif­fer­ences of opin­ion as we try to take the knowl­edge man­age­ment com­mu­nity into the 21st Cen­tury and out of tra­di­tional KM spaces such as records management.

There’s still a mas­sive dis­con­nect between what peo­ple who work in knowl­edge man­age­ment and other knowledge-​​centric roles, and iden­tify as such, and those who don’t.

Matthew, you’ve hit the nail on the head.