Knowledge Workers Vs Wisdom Workers

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When you consider valuable business assets of the past 60 years, ‘knowledge workers’ rank high.

Tremendous levels of output and resourcefulness have seen them excel in law, science, technology, engineering and basically the universe!

There’s something that knowledge workers haven’t yet mastered, however: emotional intelligence. This is fast becoming a huge capital in business. Enter the ‘Wisdom Worker!’

But is one more superior than the other? Let’s revisit the styles of each…

What is a Knowledge Worker?

Peter Drucker conceived the term knowledge workers almost 60 years ago.

In his book: The Landmarks of Tomorrow, the acclaimed management consultant proposed that “The most valuable asset of a 21st-century institution will be its knowledge workers.”

  • A knowledge worker is a (mostly) technically-minded individual who works primarily with information. Their main asset is (surprisingly) knowledge!
  • Common skills exhibited by a knowledge worker include: analysing data, understanding trends and practicing convergent thinking.
  • knowledge workers excel in: science, law, medicine, architecture, technology and many more industries.

What is a Wisdom Worker?

Behavioural science author Daniel Pink considered the progression of the wisdom worker in his book: A Whole New Mind: Why Right Brainers Will Rule The World. He stated that future employees would require accomplished storytelling skills.

  • A wisdom worker is a (mostly) creative minded individual, who works primarily in emotional creativeness.
  • Their main skill is their ability to weave engaging narrative into their work. Engaging customers is a necessity in the information era as our attention spans have dwindled.
  • Roles where wisdom workers shine include: advertisers, web content managers, social media marketers, public relation officers, marketing executives and many more.

We’ve gone over some of the characteristics of both, but what are their key benefits…?

3 Key Benefits of the Knowledge WorkerA head with cogs turning inside

1. The Knowledge Economy is Booming!

Based on intellectual capital, the knowledge economy is currently flourishing. Investing in company training and further education boosts company assets. The more knowledgeable the employee, the more valuable they are.

Consider Captain Jack Sparrow and his mob of unruly pirates. Sure, they could seize control of a ship and loot its gold. Easy money! But what if they seized control of Apple’s head office? The gold would be in the heads of the software engineers and the app designers, etc.

Knowledge workers create tangible assets. This means they generate wealth for their companies. The power is inside them!

2. They Are Technical in Nature

Software designer, cyber security, cloud computing, app designer, database administrator,

web developer… the list of technological jobs is endless! With knowledge workers possessing technical mindsets, they are more in demand than ever before!

3. They Don’t Need Wisdom to Survive!

Interestingly, wisdom requires knowledge to survive, but knowledge does not require wisdom.

Whilst wisdom workers incorporate experience, judgement and compassion, they also have to consider knowledge. Without knowledge, wisdom wouldn’t have any grounding in reality. This would render it meaningless. Thinking in these terms, the knowledge workers can pursue their work autonomously.

This is a big bonus for companies. After all, wisdom workers may have to research certain aspects that knowledge workers will already be knowledgeable in.

It can also save a business money on training. The depth and scope of a wisdom worker may be vast, but it might mean they are less acquainted with certain topics.


3 Key Benefits of the Wisdom WorkerA head showing the synapses in someone's brain firing as they dream up a Training Needs Analysis

1. Technology Cannot Make Wisdom Redundant

Consider the film Terminator 2: Judgement Day. In a famous scene, the young John Connor attempts to programme the T-800 robot with humanisms such as informal speech.

John becomes frustrated when the robot doesn’t acquire these behaviorisms. Thankfully, in most office environments we don’t have to deal with time-travelling cybernetic organisms. (Please speak to HR if in doubt.)

The principle remains. There are anthropological behaviours that technology will never understand, or be able to articulate. Technology may be better, faster and stronger than us and it may be making many jobs redundant, but it’ll will never be more human. In fact, in this digital era, we seem to crave human warmth more than ever.

This is where the wisdom worker gets to weave their humanistic magic!

2. Emotional Intelligence is Big Business

When emotional intelligence is harnessed, you get a depth that cannot be replicated by technology (unless you count Siri!).

Now we have data on tap, one of the most effective ways to stand out is personalisation. The more tailored the content is, the more engaged the learner will feel. For example, our Academy LMS allows the learner to personalise their profiles just like you would with social media.

Another effective aspect of wisdom work is the use of narrative. For instance, you can weave dramatic and compelling story-lines into your training programmes. This is important as our brains are wired to remember stories over data.

In a recent experiment at Stanford Graduate School of Business, each student gave a one minute pitch. 5% percent of students remembered a stat, whereas a huge 63% remembered a story!

The great news is you don’t have to be J. K. Rowling to do this!

Narrative is a perfect use of emotional intelligence and can be mixed with learning. We do this in our narrative-based learning comic: ‘Night of the Learning Dead.’

3. They Promote Outside-Of-The-Box Thinking:

There’s a rigidness to work that’s based purely in knowledge. It’s a prescribed way of thinking, which doesn’t allow much room for maneuver. Hard facts are awesome for certain industries such as law and science. But what happens when you require a deeper, more personal approach?

Wisdom workers will use creativity and common sense to reach unique conclusions. This flexibility allows workers to come to conclusions they wouldn’t usually. Out of the box thinking can lead to big profit, and that’s why entrepreneurs think differently.


And the Winner is….

Drum roll… BOTH!

Yes, the knowledge worker is 60 years old, but so is Madonna! And what Madonna has done for the world of Pop, the knowledge workers has done for the world of business! (Well, kind of…)

With technology relying on knowledge, the knowledge workers will be essential for a long time yet.

The same goes for wisdom workers. The wisdom worker is adding depth, emotional intelligence and the human touch to proceedings. Their assets are conceptual, which means their worth cannot be measured. They are literally priceless!

Whatever style you fall under, both demand constant knowledge growth. Our groundbreaking LMS is great for sharing knowledge. Book a demo today!

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