Everyone’s A Knowledge Worker: Thriving In The Creative Age

“People need skills that will enable them to thrive across a diverse, fast-changing and demanding range of situations. […] The economy needs people who are able to draw on their full potential to contribute ideas and know-how to the work they do. (Emphasis added)
– From the conclusion of “The Creative Age,” (1999) a 109-page paper written by authors Kimberly Seltzer and Tom Bentley for Demos, a UK based think-tank.

This is The Creative Age we’re living in, and what made it possible was the birth and growth of the massive maze of interlinks that is the World Wide Web. The Internet is a world online, and it has revolutionized the ways we think, how we communicate with one another and how fast that happens.

We have access to more information at our fingertips right now than we’ll ever be able to use up in a lifetime, with more information coming in every second of every day. So what will it take to navigate the rapids in all the torrential rivers of information available out there and make it?

One thing mentioned in the Demos paper was knowledge-based economics. Knowledge is power. Knowing how to generate it, understand it, and make it work for you is another kind of power, as is being able to simplify that knowledge to help benefit the general population.

Think of your favorite websites. The artists, creators and writers of those website have messages that resound with you, otherwise you wouldn’t visit. Think of all the websites out there, and their all niche-readers, their subscribers and followers and fans. What with all the information out there, it’s not just the people who come up with it, but also the people who can link it in useful ways that are going to stand out.

A knowledge worker is a very real thing, even if the social scientist still argue about the exact definition of one. When you see the lattices and intersections of the data out there, when you understand how they connect and function and make that information easier for other people to ‘get it’, you can be considered as someone who works with knowledge.

Think of writers like Seth Godin and Chris Guillebeau…they do that for their readers. And when your readers, or fans, get it as well, they will follow you.

Full time, part-time, all-the-time, your-own-time — every knowledge worker needs to refine their critical thinking, problem-solving and analytical skills, ones that a computer can’t make. A knowledge worker puts the ‘human’ in the human matrix of organization – mobilize, get in touch, network. But what if you still don’t consider yourself a knowledge worker?

Oh well, I’m just not that creative.
Push Picasso aside. Creativity isn’t just splashing paint on canvas in new ways. Creativity is a new way of seeing. It is a way of looking at things and connecting the dots that uses all your experience and history to bypass the surface, leap the empty spaces that make the dots look unconnected and then making the links. You get the gist of things.

Creativity is strongly linked to mastery and experience. We all hear about “beginner’s mind”, and we remember Yoda saying, “You must unlearn what you have learned.” Here’s the thing: you can do both at the same time.

Nobody’s saying that it would be easy. But it is necessary. You stay still, you don’t run the risk of getting left behind, you will be left behind. That happens, you don’t get to complain about getting no help. If you’re not willing to lift a finger to help yourself, that’s on you.

How could one person be expected to do all that?
One person alone, that’s a hard slog. Two people can help each other up, three can spell each other. More, you become a band. Add even more, you become a tribe. You’re already part of a network, of several networks –virtual, social, organizational, familial– so work it. Humans put the ‘social’ in social media. We communicate and cooperate. We collaborate — and the internet makes it so much easier and complicated at the same time.

Dammit, I’m too old for this.
Yes, the young’uns have an advantage because they grew up using tech that drives you up the wall with frustration, but that’s because they’re used to it. You can adapt, and use your experience to make the learning process lighter on yourself since you’ve learned to let go of the small stuff. That’s what experience gives you, discernment. You know how to take things easy since you’ve lived through hard.

Again, “Creativity is strongly linked to mastery and experience.” You don’t get mastery and experience delivered overnight in the mail, you spend years learning the ropes and mastering them, in learning to deal with people and pressure in all sorts of situations — you develop a sense of when things are going smoothly, and when something’s ‘off’. That’s something only time will give you, and that’s your advantage.

“People need skills that will enable them to thrive across a diverse, fast-changing and demanding range of situations. […] who are able to draw on their full potential to contribute ideas and know-how to the work they do. “

This boils down to one demand: You need to be smarter about yourself.

You need to be honest about what you want in life and what you’re willing to do, give and be so you can put yourself in a place to enjoy what you want. Get out of your own way. You can do it.

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