October 22, 2008

Do You Have What It Takes?

Knowledge management folks have to interact with technology daily. In fact, all knowledge workers have to interact with technology daily. There's no other way to do your job well in the 21st century. The problem is that those of us who are 40 years old or more learned to be knowledge workers at a time when there was much less technology, and the technology we had didn't work terribly well. In the nearly 20 years I've been in the workforce, we've seen enormous changes: from the IBM Selectric to desktop computers to fully mobile computing; from telephones to e-mail to microblogging; from internal memos to enterprise blogs and wikis. And there's more change coming down the pike.

Are you ready?

Are you sure you're ready?

Being ready is not just about knowing about the tool or knowing how to use the technology. It's about changing your attitude and approach to the technology so that you really know how to use it well. For example, if you were trained to find information in a time when information appeared to be scarce, you developed some great sleuthing skills. (Remember having to go to a library, and then to the card catalog, and then to the place on the shelf where the book should have been, only to find it missing? That's one form of info scarcity -- when finding it is hard.) Now contrast that with our current situation, where you can Google "knowledge management blogs" and get 6,760,000 results in 0.15 seconds. That's not just information abundance, that's information overload. And that overload calls for different skills; it calls for filtering skills.

In a helpful post, New Work and New Work Skills, Tony Karrer sets out some benchmarks against which we can measure our readiness for 21st century work in an age of information abundance. Here are some of the ways of working he believes we should learn:
And here's his quick test to see how well we've adopted the change in attitude and approach necessary to master the new technology:
  • I effectively use the Google filetype operator
  • I know what the Google "~" operator does
  • I'm effective at reaching out to get help from people I don't already know
  • I'm good at keeping, organizing my documents, web pages that I've encountered in ways that allow me to find it again when I need it and remind me that it exists when I'm not sure what I'm looking for
  • I'm good at filtering information
  • I'm good at collaboratively working with virtual work teams and use Google Docs or a Wiki as appropriate in these situations
So, take the test and tell me. Do you have what it takes to be an effective knowledge worker in the 21st century?

[Thanks to Bill Brantley for pointing out Tony Karrer's post.]

6 comments:

Daniel J. Pritchett said...

I am going to give myself credit for all but the first two. I've filtered Google searches on filetypes *occasionally* but I rarely find myself wanting to do so.

The tilde operator is completely new to me, I'll have to remember that one.

Filtering information and finding experts online are skills that each of us can improve every day. I'm sure I'm better today than I was a month ago. Who knows where we'll be in another year?

Thanks for another great post, Mary.

Tony Karrer said...

Mary, your introductory paragraph to the concept is FANTASTIC. I hope you won't mind if I borrow from it heavily to explain the ideas / introduce it myself in the future.

Good discussion of filtering and information overload. I'm glad I found you this way. Look forward to future discussions.

Mary Abraham said...

Thanks, Daniel. You're a brave soul to actually take the test. The next question is how do we get our colleagues up the learning curve?

- Mary

Mary Abraham said...

Tony -

Thanks for your kind words and thanks for providing the yeast for my post. Feel free to use the concept, but if anyone offers you a book contract, be sure to send me royalties!

- Mary

c_spizz said...

I'm still struggling with the second half of number four in your test: organizing info so as to remind myself I have it or where it is. I can often recall having a resource on a point but can't remember where to look--was it in an email, blog post, website, or document I downloaded? Should I find the original source or have I clipped the snippet of info I need in one of (too) many clipping tools (i.e. Clipmarks, Evernote, Scrapbook for Firefox, Google Notebook, etc)?

I think we can get our colleagues up the learning curve by dragging them kicking and screaming. ;) I think they just need exposure. It doesn't take long to see the value in these tools once you've had a chance to test drive them.

You've got a ton of great stuff here. Keep up the great work!

Mary Abraham said...

@C_Spizz -

As the flood of information continues unabated, all of us are going to have the same struggle you mentioned. You're right that education is key here. These are critical life skills in the Internet Age.

Thanks for you encouragement. I do hope you'll stop by, read and comment often.

- Mary