Work competency, literacy, and mastery

Tony Karrer’s comments to a recent post of mine that discussed the application of a craft work model to knowledge work got me thinking a bit more about the subject. I’ve also been thinking some about the one of the goals of the Work Literacy project, specifically to “help build a foundation of knowledge of methods for knowledge work” (as Tony wrote in comments to Michele’s post Knowledge Workers as Craft Workers).

So instead of apprentice/journeyman/master, which refer as much to an individual’s position within an organization as it does to the individual’s skill level, I’m thinking the more basic terms of competency, literacy, and mastery may apply. These speak directly to the skill level of the individual in terms of the individual’s goals, and is independent of any organization they may be part of.

Obviously, these terms will need to be defined a bit in the context of knowledge work and work literacy to be of use to the current effort. A good place to start is at the basic definitions of the terms:

  • Competent: having suitable or sufficient skill, knowledge, experience, etc., for some purpose; properly qualified; adequate but not exceptional.
  • Literate: having knowledge or skill in a specified field
  • Mastery: command or grasp, as of a subject:

Though competency and literacy seem to be very similar, I see them as distinct in the following way. Competence means that you have the knowledge/skill to perform a given task, without necessarily understanding why it is done or having the ability to adapt of if the conditions under which you learned the skill change. Literacy, on the other hand, suggests that you understand why you perform the task the way it is and that you have the ability to adapt your performance to changing conditions and still be successful.

To re-word Tony’s goal stated above, the question in my mind then becomes, “What competencies are needed for knowledge workers today?”

Here are a couple that come to mind. I’ll save more detailed discussion of these for the comments or future posts.

SUGGESTED COMPETENCIES

  • Technology (hardware)
  • Technology (software)
  • Personal Computers
  • Social Networking (technical and personal)
  • Visual Communications
  • Information Assurance / Security
  • Impact of Globalization
  • Finance / money
  • Interpersonal communications

I’m sure there are more, and I’m sure some of these may not be appropriate. But it is a start.

The evolution of the employee-employer relationship

Here’s another piece from the archives, this one from April 2004. I’ve pulled this one out as part of a response to a discussion between Bill Brantley and Harold Jarche on the question of the work literacy gap and its impact on, and the role of, the organization.

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Employee-employer relations in a knowledge based economy

I’ve long believed that the prevelance of knowledge work in organizations today will (eventually) fundamentally shift the employee – employer relationship. In many ways, knowledge workers will come to be “self-employed” in the sense that they are working to improve themselves and to make an impact on the world at large and not just within the company they happen to be “working for” at the time.

With 401k plans allowing for retirement planning independent of a specific job or pension plan, and for various other reasons that are well documented elsewhere, knowledge workers don’t seem to be staying in the same place for their entire careers anymore. With retirement taken care of, other things today’s employees need to consider include health/life insurance, etc. A truly self-employed knowledge worker also has to worry about the business end of things, such as billing’invoicing, taxes, payroll, etc. etc.

By working “for” a company, knowledge workers are in many ways simply out-sourcing the business end of being self-employed so they can focus on the job itself.

This obviously raises some interesting questions for organizations….

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The emergence of Web 2.0 has definitely had an impact here, since individuals can be more “independent” than ever, even within the confines of being an employee of a company. As Bill writes:

In fact, as the rise of social network-based learning has demonstrated, employees no longer need the company to develop their knowledge, skills, and abilities. In many professions, communities of practice and professional organizations have replaced the shop floor and company mentors as the source of employee training.

The challenge for organizations in this situation becomes not providing employees the training they need to carry out the company’s goals and projects, but rather providing employees with goals and projects that engage the employees and effectively use what they are learning for themselves.

Updated [27 Jun]:  Although this post is primarily targeted at the changing role of the organization, it also addresses Michele Martin’s questions concerning changing knowledge workers’ attitudes about learning and training.

Who owns your data? Who should own it?

Two interesting posts on the question of data ownership, coming from two very different perspectives.

Harold Jarche comes at the question from a “physical” standpoint, as he contemplates the closure of Eduspaces, in his post Own Your Data:

The impending closure of the Eduspaces service has many people wondering what to do and several options are cropping up in the online discussions.

Anyone who asks me about blogging or setting up a community on the Web using wikis or some other application is given pretty well the same advice. If the site is important and the data are of some significance for the long term, then:

  1. Use an open source platform from a stable and functioning community.
  2. Own your own domain, and have a Service Level Agreement for your hosting.

Using open source gives you freedom from vendors and ensures that you are not handcuffed to your technology provider. Having your own domain name and paying for a service provider (or hosting on your own server) ensure that you have control over your data.

This is one of the reasons I moved this blog off of Blogger and onto my own domain . I’m eventually planning to import that old version onto the new, but I’ve not been able to get the function to work properly. (An excellent example of what Harold is talking about.)

On the other hand, Ton Zijlstra is thinking more about how to control how the data is used. In To (Web2.0) Developers: I Want Control of My Data, I Want to Write My Own Rules, he gives developers his two key reasons:

I sure am with Doc Searls and Dave Winer on this one. I want control of my own data. And I want to write my own rules on how others may and may not use my data.

First because if you tell me I have no friends simply because my data is not on your platform, you’re not getting it. I am the landscape, you are the map. And the map does not get to say what reality is, just what it thinks it looks like.

Second because I want my tools to become smarter, a lot smarter. And it is only me that can provide the context and data that allows tools to be smarter. I need to be in control of my data for you to let your tools be smarter. I need to be the owner of e.g. my favourites/wishlists and preferences for you to really give me good recommendations.

Something to think about.