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Beyond knowledge workers Featured

9:33am EDT July 22, 2002

You've heard "Knowledge is power" and "Information is king." And, no doubt you're increasingly inundated with massive amounts of information and communications.

But do you feel more powerful? If you are like most people, odds are, you're actually feeling more confused than ever. The reality is that information and knowledge are useless unless you're able to apply them to some productive end.

There has been a lot of discussion about our economy becoming knowledge-based and needing knowledge workers. I disagree. We need to go beyond knowledge workers and cultivate wisdom workers.

Knowledge workers can successfully obtain knowledge through a multitude of sources, including the latest technology. These people are intellectually and educationally top-notch, with high IQs, although they may not always be practical in their approaches.

Wisdom workers are engaged in their work and successfully apply their knowledge to get things accomplished. Some may call these individuals street-wise for their ability to lead for results. They may not be at the top intellectually, educationally or technologically and may have done poorly in these areas in school.

They gain wisdom by reflecting on their life lessons, seeking to understand others and applying what they learn. They use the best means at the best time for the best end.

Here are five ways to grow your own wisdom workers.

Communications training for interpersonal skills. You can't uncork the knowledge in others if they do not feel comfortable in their ability to communicate. Consider courses in leadership training and communications skills, covering conflict management, respect in communications and how to show appreciation and encouragement.

People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care. Nobody listens to your wisdom if they don't feel you care.

Deprogram people to think entrepreneurially. Formal education taught most people to memorize and regurgitate facts. Now, your requests are for creativity in the workplace. So how can you deprogram your staff to move in that direction?

  • Devote 10 percent of your time to new projects. You may say you don't have time, but you will if you stop and identify what can be eliminated or delegated.

  • Test conventional wisdom. Ask why your company does things the way it does. Make changes where appropriate to be more efficient.

  • Invest time in entrepreneurial organizations and education. Enroll key staff members in an entrepreneurial studies course at a university or get involved with Ohio Business Week and/or Junior Achievement.

  • Show others the money. Consider paying cash bonuses on programs that provide a positive identifiable financial impact.

  • Initiate a no fear zone. Fear of failure is real. Consider programs that build self-confidence.

Rev up cross-generational and cross-functional learning. Cross-generational learning establishes formal mentoring alliances between younger and older workers. Have the younger mentor the older on systems; have the older mentor the younger on culture and ways to get things done.

Cross-functionally moves people laterally to obtain more knowledge and the wisdom of walking in another person's shoes.

Cultivate wisdom and be a responsible member of the community. Leadership wisdom is obtained through influencing others, not making demands.

A fantastic venue to grow leadership wisdom and contribute to the community is through volunteer efforts with nonprofit groups and organizations.

Blur the lines between business and education. Allow your staff time to contribute to the educational community. Invite people from the education field into your company.

If you are like most people, the Information Age has not made life any easier. The demands to increase your knowledge and your time commitments have never been greater. The real challenge is to cultivate wisdom. The winners in life have always been, and will always be, those who convert knowledge into wisdom.

Get started on your journey to move yourself and your organization into the Wisdom Age. Mike Foti (mfoti@leadershipbuilders.com) is CEO of Cleveland Glass Block (a Northcoast 99 winner) and president of Leadership Builders. He speaks, trains, facilitates and consults with individuals on leadership and strategic planning. He can be reached at (216) 531-6085.