05:10 PM

The Knowledge Economy: The Wonder Years Are Yet to Come

Although it seems as if it has been with us forever, we've only recently entered what one might call the knowledge economy, "an economic environment where information and its manipulation are the commodity and the activity (in contrast to the industrial economy where the worker produced a tangible object with raw production materials and physical goods)."*

I am a child of the knowledge economy.  For a variety of reasons, I hold April 17, 1973 as one of the key dates in the history of the knowledge economy for on that day, Federal Express began its operations.  As of April 18, people were no longer content to wait days and weeks for a package with a document to arrive.  The arrival of Fedex, and later, the telecopier and inexpensive communications services, allowed knowledge workers to develop the expectation that requests for information could - and should - be fulfilled on demand.

Of course the expectation that we would have information available on demand was the genesis of trouble down the line.  Knowledge workers began to get used to instant gratification and started expecting it in other areas as well.  But that was before systems became more complicated.

So about instant gratification.  I don't expect that my software experience will be overly gratifying anytime soon, yet I, as a prototypical knowledge worker, still have work to do.  So do millions of other knowledge workers.  Despite the hype, the knowledge economy is still in its infancy.  That explains the rudimentary level of the tools we have at hand.  It's no one's fault; the tools simply haven't matured yet.  We shouldn't set our expectations high, as we still have a lot to figure out in that department, reminding me of Winston Churchill's comment that democracy is the worst form of Government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.

(What have we learnt since 1973?  We're trying to figure that out as you read this.  If you wish to contribute to the body of knowledge, please write to us at and tell us how you overcome these obstacles.)

*Managing the Knowledge Workforce, Jonathan B, Spira, Mercury Business Press, page 9

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