The HBR blog has a piece on knowledge workers and how executives look at their employees: Are All Employees Knowledge Workers? by John Hagel III, John Seely Brown, and Lang Davison. It's been making the rounds on my social networks.
We live in a world of haves and have nots. No, not the kind you might imagine. These people reside within our companies. We increasingly group the people in our firms into two classes: those who have knowledge and talent and, by implication, those who do not. This segmentation is misleading and damaging to firms in the long run.
I can see their point. Just about everyone within an organization has valuable knowledge about the ins and outs of the business and could contribute -- assuming the organization is willing and interested in hearing the contribution.
When Drucker coined the term and others borrowed it, I don't think the idea was differentiation so much as identification. Traditional "work" was the physical labor variety. As management ideas grew into the information age, they wanted ways to categorize (and measure) other workers within the organization. Knowledge work seemed a good way to describe what a larger and larger portion of the working population were doing.
I wonder if a more passe term is simply, "workers." The people who we want to contribute their knowledge are those who are invested in the organization in any form.
[Photo: "Bolting off to Work" by ...-Wink-...]