For quite a few years we have been told that we were living in an Information Society, the successor to the Industrial Society. But that doesn’t sound too accurate, or does it? The successor to the industrial society would be the post-industrial society, one where most people do immaterial labor -that is, where most of the workforce are not devoted to the production of material goods, but rather to providing services to other companies or consumers.

The Information Society is a society where the creation, distribution, use, integration and manipulation of information is a significant economic, political, and cultural activity. Its main drivers are digital information and communication technologies, which have resulted in an information explosion.

Which means that the Information Society is not the successor to the Industrial Society, but rather a completely new paradigm -one where we have all become digital citizens and that has resulted in profound changes to all aspects of social organization, including the economy, education, health, warfare, government and democracy.

That sounds more like it, or doesn’t it? Well, it definitely sounds better, but not quite enough. Or maybe it was enough for quite a few years, but not any more (after all, this is 2018). Now we should be talking about the Knowledge Society, one that generates, shares and makes available to all its members the knowledge that may be used to improve the human condition.

So, what is the difference between Knowledge Society and Information Society?

A Knowledge Society differs from an Information Society in that the former serves to transform information into resources that allow society to take effective action while the latter only creates and disseminates the raw data.”

A Knowledge Society promotes human rights and offers equal, inclusive, and universal access to all knowledge creation. The UNESCO World Report establishes four principles that are essential for development of an equitable Knowledge Society:

  • cultural diversity
  • equal access to education
  • universal access to information (in the public domain)
  • freedom of expression

One of the areas where this is having (and will continue to have) a deep impact is that of employment: whereas the Industrial Society required people to settle in one place to perform a very specific role or function, the jobs associated with knowledge workers have become much less specific in regard to task and place.

In that context we find a new kind of person/worker/employee, the knowmads. These are a nomadic knowledge and innovation workers -that is, creative, imaginative, and innovative people who can work with almost anybody, anytime, and anywhere.

Technologies allow for these new paradigm workers to work either at a specific place, virtually, or in any blended combination, because they can instantly reconfigure and recontextualize their work environments and relationships.

Because of that, knowmads are valued for the personal knowledge that they possess, and this knowledge gives them a competitive advantage. Knowmads are also responsible for designing their own futures: this represents a massive shift from agricultural, industrial, and information-based work in which our relationships and responsibilities were static and clearly defined by others.

So, who are knowmads, or how can they be defined? They

  • are not restricted to a specific age
  • build their personal knowledge through explicit information gathering and tacit experiences, and leverage their personal knowledge to produce new ideas
  • are able to contextually apply their ideas and expertise in various social and organizational configurations
  • are highly motivated to collaborate, and are natural networkers, navigating new organizations, cultures, and societies
  • use technologies purposively to help them solve problems and transcend geographical limitations
  • are open to sharing what they know, and invite and support open access to information, knowledge, and expertise from others
  • can unlearn as quickly as they learn, adopting new ideas and practices as necessary
  • thrive in non-hierarchical networks and organizations
  • develop habits of mind and practice to learn continuously
  • are not afraid of failure

Change is naturally frightening for humans, and living in Knowmad Society implies that the “securities” that we enjoyed in the past are obsolete (e.g., life-long employment at an organization, the promise of retirement, and steady streams of income). But you better get used to it: by 2020, 45% of the Western workforce will be knowmadic. And that number will only grow.

So get ready for that new paradigm, because it’s here already. Can you feel it?

Additional watching: Rise of knowmads: John Moravec at TEDxUMN

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