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Knowledge Work

The term "knowledge work" was coined by Peter Drucker (1959, 1964, 1973) to describe what was then a new trend, an important segment of the workforce concerned primarily with knowledge and the manipulation of information (rather than people, produce or things)

Charles Savage (1995) describes a knowledge-focus as the third wave of human socio-economic development. The first wave was the Agricultural Age with wealth defined as ownership of land. In the second wave, the Industrial Age, wealth was based on ownership of Capital, i.e. factories. In the Knowledge Age, wealth is based upon the owner­ship of knowledge and the ability to use that knowledge to create or improve goods and services. Product improvements include cost, durability, suitability, timeliness of delivery, and security. 

Retained knowledge provide an organization with knowledge assets, part of the overall value of its intellectual capital. In some cases organizations create patents around their assets, at which point the material becomes restricted intellectual property. In these knowledge-intensive situations, knowledge work plays a direct, vital role in increasing the financial value of a company.

Rapid global expansion of information-based transactions and interactions has dramatically increased demand for a workforce that is capable of performing these activities. Presently, probably a majority of work in North America might conceivably defined as knowledge work.

Knowledge Work Basics | Knowledge Workers | K-Work and Innovation | Frameworks for understanding K-Work | Discussion Points


Drucker, Peter F (1959) The Landmarks of Tomorrow. New York: Harper & Row

Drucker, P. F. (1964) Concept of the corporation: Mentor edition. New York: The John Day Company, Inc. page 241 (Epilogue)

Drucker, Peter F (1973) Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices. Harper & Row, New York

Ikujiro Nonaka (1991) “The Knowledge Creating Company”, in Knowledge Management. Harvard Business School Press

Savage, Charles (1996) Fifth Generation Management, 2nd Edition: Dynamic Teaming, Virtual Enter¬prising and Knowledge Networking

Further reading

Barbrook, Richard (2006) The Class of the New (paperback). London: OpenMute. ISBN 0-9550664-7-6.

Davenport, Thomas H. and Laurence Prusak (1998) Working Knowledge. Harvard Business School press. Boston, MA

Drucker, Peter F (1999) Management Challenges of the 21st Century. New York: Harper Business

Leonard, Dorothy (1993) Wellsprings of Knowledge. Harvard Business School Press, Boston MA

Liu, Alan (2004) The Laws of Cool: Knowledge Work and the Culture of Information, University of Chicago Press

Mcgee, James and Lawrence Prusak (1993) Managing information Strategically. John Wiley. New York.

O'Brien, James, and Marakas, George (2010) Management Information Systems, 10th ed. McGraw-Hill. Page 32

Sheridan, William (2008) How to think like a knowledge worker, United Nations Public Administration Network, New York

Tapscott, Don and Anthony D. Williams (2006) Wikinomics. Penguin Group, New York

Thorp, John (1998) Information Paradox. McGraw-Hill Ryerson Publishers, Toronto


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