A knowmad is what I have previously termed a nomadic knowledge and innovation worker – that is, a creative, imaginative, and innovative person who can work with almost anybody, anytime, and anywhere. Moreover, knowmads are valued for the personal knowledge that they possess, and this knowledge gives them a competitive advantage. Industrial society is giving way to knowledge and innovation work. Whereas the industrialization of Society 1.0 required people to settle in one place to perform a very specific role or function, the jobs associated with knowledge and information workers have become much less specific in regard to task and place. Moreover, technologies allow for these new paradigm workers to work either at a specific place, virtually, or any blended combination. Knowmads can instantly reconfigure and recontextualize their work environments, and greater mobility is creating new opportunities.
In Invisible Learning, Cristóbal Cobo and I presented a “passport of skills for a knowmad” (p. 57). Refining the list a bit, I am pleased to present an update with nine key characteristics of knowmads in Society 3.0:
- Are not restricted to a specific age. (see note, below)
- Build their personal knowledge through explicit information gathering and tacit experiences, and leverage their personal knowledge to produce new ideas.
- Are able to apply their ideas and expertise contextually in various social and organizational configurations.
- Are highly motivated to collaborate, and are natural networkers, navigating new organizations, cultures, and societies.
- Purposively use new technologies to help them solve problems and transcend geographical limitations.
- Are open to sharing what they know, and invite the open access to information, knowledge and expertise from others.
- Develop habits of mind and practice to learn continuously, and can unlearn as quickly as they learn, adopting new ideas and practices as necessary.
- Thrive in non-hierarchical networks and organizations.
- Are not afraid of failure — and see their failures as learning opportunities.
The remixing of places and social relationships is also impacting education. Students in Knowmad Society should learn, work, play, and share in almost any configuration. But there is little evidence to support any claim that education systems are moving toward a knowmad-enabled paradigm. When we compare the list of skills required of knowmads to the outcomes of mainstream education, I wonder: What are we educating for? Are we educating to create factory workers and bureaucrats? Or, are we educating to create innovators, capable of leveraging their imagination and creativity?
These questions –and more– will be explored further in the book Knowmad Society, which will be released later this year.
Note: Due to current social structures that limit participation in the new society (i.e., access to pooled health insurance), the largest growth in knowmadic workers today are among youth and older workers.