About Me

Education, the knowledge society, the global market all connected through technology and cross-cultural communication skills are I am all about. I hope through this blog to both guide others and travel myself across disciplines, borders, theories, languages, and cultures in order to create connections to knowledge around the world. I teach at the University level in the areas of Business, Language, Communication, and Technology.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

New Skills for Knowledge Workers

On the work literacy blog, Tony Karrer posted a framework, that I was not really satisfied with. I thought it was too simplistic, too "cookbook" like with a follow the checklist type mentality. Tony agreed, but pointed out that he really hadn't come across anything better. So I tried to come up with a "better" framework.

I'm not sure I acheived better as much as different or something that is closer to what I see are the new skills needed for knowledge workers. Some of this is based on work that I have been doing in distance learning over the last 4 years. One paper in particular which I gave at AERA in 2006 (you can find a copy on my website) is the basis for the cognitive, social, and social-cognitive skills. This came out of work I did with Dr. Hae-Doek Song in which we looked at cognition and social aspects of a distance learning course. As we developed the codes we would use for cognition and social, I felt there was a third dimension: socio-cognition.

4 Categories of Skills

Looking at the mind map I developed, you will see I have 4 categories of skills: cognitive, social, socio-cognitive, and performance. I have a note in each of the category with gives a brief description of what I think are these skills. In the case of the last skill, I think there is a type of skill, which fits more into the traditional idea of "learning" and still has a place in today's workplace.

For lack of any other term, I called it the performance skill as it is the skill that is developed and is the basis for most "performance" evaluations. These skills can easily be tested and often are learned through repetition on the job. Each individual will develop their own heuristic to accomplish these skills, but they will be evaluated on the performance rather than the "heuristic".

Framework is more Complex

While this framework, I think is more complex than
the one presented by Tony, I also think it allows for less defined skills, and more types of skills. I have put in specific skills that I think will fall into each category, however, these skills (and the categories) might change given the job, organization, or even technology over time.

This is also my first attempt. I think there can be more definition to the model in terms of the interaction between the skills (for example, what happens if the organization stresses performance skills, customers social skills, from a worker that is more comfortable with cognitive skills--such as happens with help-desk personnel?). Can this framework be used to identify types of organizations, knowledge work, personalities, or tasks? Can we then over lap these skills with technology attributes or affordances to develop an even more complex model that helps to match skills with technology or skills with affordances or outcomes?


I used a collaborative mindmapping tool (
wisemapping) to develop this mindmap. If anyone would like contribute to it, let me know and I will give you access to it. I tried to include skills we have been discussing on the workliteracy blog. There are others I have been reading lately, which I might add or might allow to give me another dimension to the map.


Michele said...

Virginia, I like where you're going with your framework and I also like that you've used a mindmap to represent it because for me, that makes things clearer. I will say though that I think I have a problem with what you've named each of the four major skill types. They seem to technical to me, at least for ordinary people.

One of the things I keep striving for in thinking about work literacy is simplicity. When it comes 21st century skills or whatever we want to call them, it feels to me like every skill framework we come up with ends up being so complicated that "regular" people end up throwing up their hands in disgust. I'm not sure if Tony agrees with me on this, but one of my personal quests is to come up with a framework that doesn't overwhelm people. I'm feeling very practical about all of this and wondering how we can frame things in a way that makes people "get it" without feeling like they can never catch up.

V Yonkers said...

I think the problem is that many want to "simplify" a complex set of skills. When you say "technical", is it the jargon or the boundaries that you have difficulty with.

If it is the jargon, then perhaps something such as "thinking", "IQ for the 21st Century", "information processing" for cognitive skills, "collaboration" for socio-cognitive, social skills (or EQ for the 21st century), and performance skills would do better.

I think the problem with most businesses today is that they want everything to be boiled down to an easy sound bit, which cannot always be done. By focusing on just the nuts and bolts, there is the risk of oversimplifying.

Perhaps my next post will give you an idea of how this framework could be used. I don't envision that all skill sets would be developed in one training, but rather, depending on the job, experience, and organization, an inventory could be taken, and certain skill sets would need to be addressed as priority for development.

Tony Karrer said...

Virginia - I like that you are fighting through this with us. Like Michele, I want to have an easy-to-understand framework. One of the things that your framework points out is that there's overlap between the categories, e.g., sociocognitive.

I do like a few of the specific categories that you've included in there, e.g., questioning, listening skills - they don't have a natural place in my framework.

Part of what makes it difficult to think about these multiple frameworks is that we can think about knowledge work and knowledge work skills from different perspectives, e.g., problem solving, types of work tasks, types of skills, information flow, process flow, etc. I tried to do it from a types of work tasks so it would be easier to identify where it fits, but it makes the model simplistic.

I'll be curious to see if this gets at least some discussion happening.