Networked knowledge requires new habits of participation and new habits of communication

by eskokilpi

Most of the information on the Internet is worthless to the majority of people. This obscures the transformative change going on at the moment. People are storing less and less information “inside”, inside computers, in private folders or in their memory because there is a new, better alternative: in the always on, always connected world, information is available “outside” on the Internet, more easily and more cheaply, with considerably smaller search costs. This is causing a fundamental shift in the way we manage information, use our ICT tools, or understand the competencies needed in the knowledge-intensive economy.

Before the Internet and efficient mobile communication devices, most professional occupations required individual competencies that in most cases had accumulated over years. This experience base, often called tacit knowledge, was used to retrieve answers from memory and to independently solve situations arising at work. Knowledge was situated in the individual. In order to help individuals cope with the challenges of everyday life, individual competencies needed to be developed. Our whole education system is still very largely based on independent individual learning and knowing.

The cognitive load of work has increased as a result of manufacturing giving way to knowledge-intensive work. As a consequence, the content of work is changing from generic, repetitive practices to contextual, creative practices. This makes the individual experience base, by default, too narrow a starting point for efficient work. Experiences can be a huge asset but experiences can also be a liability, creating recurrence where there should be innovation. Knowledge work is not performed by independent individuals but by interdependent people in interaction. A new way to understanding work and competencies is unfolding: many knowledge workers claim that today they can know, on demand, by communicating with their network and retrieving answers from the Internet, more easily than from their own “inside” sources.

Knowledge used to be understood as the internal property of an individual. Today knowledge should be seen as networked communication. This requires us to learn new ways of talking about education, competencies and work itself. What is also needed is to unlearn the reductionist organizing principles that are still the mainstream. Work is communication and the network is the amplifier of knowledge.

The process of communication is the process of knowing. You can only know what you are doing in conversation. If we want to influence the process of knowing we need to develop new habits of participation and new habits of communication. This is what the new interaction technologies and tools allow us to do. This is also where agile practices impact on knowledge work in a similar way to that in which lean practices impacted on manufacturing. The creation of new habits of agile participation and new habits of communication is the primary focus of my research and my practice.

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Thank you Doug Griffin for thinking and working on this with me.