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The Future of the Future: Goodbye, knowledge worker…
Hello, knowledge entrepreneur

This article appears in the issue June 2008, [Vol 17, Issue 6]


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Whenever I use the term knowledge worker, I am often told that the term is "so last-century, so industrial-age." I must admit, it certainly doesn’t sound appropriate when referring to the Enterprise of the Future. In fact, it’s becoming obvious that the very notion of a job is falling by the wayside, especially in organizations where knowledge-intensive activities are performed. Regardless of whether or not you have designs on starting your own business, you should, no, make that must, start viewing yourself as a knowledge entrepreneur: the leader of your own, knowledge-based micro-enterprise.

The changing global economy

You could almost call it a clash of civilizations: capitalism vs. socialism, big corporations vs. big government. As we make the transition to the Enterprise of the Future, big anything will likely fade into history. This is happening in part because the underlying assumptions that gave us economies of scale, and drove us to a large, mass production paradigm, are crumbling. The result is the return to smaller, more localized and more sustainable means of production.

At the forefront of this trend is a new breed of entrepreneur, known as the knowledge entrepreneur. This remarkable person locates undiscovered or underused knowledge assets online, organizes them and applies them to fulfill a need. The goal is to deliver the greatest possible benefit to society, while rewarding all stakeholders and generating enough additional wealth to sustain the process in a continually changing environment. The new knowledge entrepreneur seeks to balance sustainable growth with social responsibility, truly the best of both worlds.

According to the Billion Minds Foundation, the socially responsible knowledge entrepreneur has the following recognizable traits:

  • challenges the status quo;
  • inspires a shared vision and mobilizes the means to effect needed change;
  • operates where local, national and global markets cannot, because the financial risks are too great, but seeks those areas because the potential for social impact is the greatest;
  • invests in developing global knowledge-based industries and clusters; and
  • retools with new value-added skills and experience to become competitive in the global knowledge economy.

Your personal transformation process

You need to create and deliver value, and receive value in exchange ... which means you need a personal business model. The value you receive has to be enough not only to sustain yourself, but also to enable you to grow. Just like any company, you need to reinvest a portion of your income in personal R&D.

In addition, you will need to focus on maintaining and growing your personal customer relationship management (CRM) system. If companies like MySpace.com are purchased for over a half-billion dollars primarily to acquire lists of users within a targeted demographic, shouldn’t you be developing and nurturing your own list of clients, peers, suppliers and partners?

Similarly, you’ll need a personal mini-enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. Thinking like an entrepreneur means managing and leveraging your personal asset inventory: knowledge, skills, finances, relationships, tools and the like. Think asset creation and valuation, just like a Silicon Valley venture capitalist.

You’ll need a business process management (BPM) system. How efficient are your personal processes? How well do you manage your time? Your use of e-mail and technology? How do you measure your personal efficiency and effectiveness? Too many working professionals waste valuable time and energy worrying about losing their jobs to outsourcing, instead of looking for ways to beat back the competition by producing higher quality work with greater efficiency and effectiveness.

In fact, the same four pillars we’ve discussed at length with respect to the Enterprise of the Future—leadership, organization, learning and technology—apply equally to the knowledge entrepreneur:

  • Leadership: Take control of your destiny. Look for strategic opportunities and capitalize on them.
  • Organization: Organize your work processes and network with others who can augment what you do. Create micro-networks of small, agile teams of like-minded individuals who can quickly respond to opportunities in a mutually beneficial way.
  • Learning: Be a source of learning for others, by coaching and mentoring, and seek out others to help you grow in the same way. Never, ever, stop learning, innovating, growing and creating value.
  • Technology: Articles about Web 2.0 in the April issue of KMWorld are a good place to start. The playing field in technology is not only leveling, it’s getting as smooth as glass. Ride it!

A multibillion-mind world

Knowledge entrepreneurship and socially responsible investment are the keys to creating a sustainable economy of billions of minds. This cannot be left to chance. Rather, it requires the collaborative engagement of the world’s most enlightened thought leaders, businesses, governments, universities, non-profit institutions and investors. And you.

As a knowledge entrepreneur, you can join in co-creating the latest breakthroughs by acquiring, sharing, growing and using knowledge for the benefit of society. Now doesn’t that sound a lot more exciting than being referred to as a knowledge worker? 


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