Tuesday, June 22, 2010


Avril 2010 
The recent history of the formation and use of the concept of “knowledge worker”, as well as the activities and professions focusing on knowledge, date from the sixties, precisely the decade of the first research leading to the development of internet.
In a first book (The Production and distribution of Knowledge in the United States, Princeton University Press, 1962), Fritz Machlup underscores the importance of growth in activities related to the production of knowledge: professionals associated with these activities are then defined as those who create new knowledge and especially who communicate existing knowledge to others - “a large supporting cast of knowledge – producing employees”.
During the seventies, the sociologist Daniel Bell (The Coming of Post-Industrial Society, Basic Book, 1973) insists precisely at Harvard on the growing importance of direct contact between individuals as well as production and exchange of information and knowledge. It is during those years that the United States see reel stock of the intangible capital exceed that of tangible capital.
Peter Drucker, who seems to have been the first to use the term of “Knowledge employees”(The Landmarks of Tomorrow, 1959) writes in the last decade of the century: “knowledge is the only resource than matters” (Post-Capitalist Society, Butterworth-Heinemann, 1993).
During the same decade, Robert Reich refers to the category of “manipulators of symbols”, that classify in three areas of value producing skills the activities of “problem solving”, “problem identification” and “strategic brokerage” (The Work of Nations, 1991).
Jérémie Rifkin (The End of the Work, Jeremy P. Tercher / G.P Putam’s Sons, 1995) refers to “abstraction manipulators”, which represent a “new cosmopolitan force”, a true nomadic tribe who sells their talents and services. He sees it comprising 4% of the active work force in the United States and constituting a heterogeneous group “united by their ability to use the most modern information technology to identify, treat and solve problems”. His intervention in one of the seminars organized by ARENOTECH in Brussels has allowed this NGO to contribute to the international dissemination of both the semantics of the knowledge economy, but also the earliest categorizations of internet businesses within our European project “WEEST”.
It is this context that Richard Florida develops at Carnegie Mellon University his concept of the “creative class” (The Rise of the Creative Class, Basic Books, 2002).  In his eyes it covers a large group of creative professionals, including - at the millennium change - 30% of the US population. In the same direction, in his research particularly developed at The University of Texas, Thomas Davenport describes the employees of knowledge as those who enjoy a high level of training and expertise and who are involved in activities associated with the creation, distribution or application of knowledge (Thinking for a Living, Harvard Business School Press, 2005).
The analyses of the Territories of Tomorrow Foundation owes most to Richard Florida, but also to French research, such as by Jean-Pierre Bouchez (The New Knowledge employees, Paris, 2004).

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