Discover more from Memos from Hawk Hill Ventures
📚 Don't be a knowledge worker. Be a knowledge creator.
Original thought is the most valuable commodity in the knowledge economy.
The pandemic accelerated growth of the "laptop class". These knowledge workers now spend much of their time simply translating information from one format to another. Product managers translate customer problems into product specifications. Designers translate product specifications into designs. Software engineers translate designs into code. Essentially, every knowledge worker takes information presented in one format and translates it into another format.
This begs the question - if AI can automate these translations, where is the value in the human knowledge worker? The value lies in original thought: insight, creativity, and storytelling. Developing products and services that truly resonate with people remains difficult. Innovating to make something uniquely better still requires human intelligence. And creating something that someone can meaningfully connect with depends on human empathy.
The litmus test for doing valuable work in the knowledge economy may be: "Is my contribution to this project commoditized, or am I uniquely adding value in a way that only I can?" This challenge is not limited to only software roles. Knowledge worker is a vanity title for humans that move pieces of information along an assembly line.
The modern professional has become complacent - overly dependent on internet answers rather than training their own critical thinking. "Just Google It" has substituted original thought. By relying so heavily on basic internet research, many knowledge workers have become replaceable cogs in the machine.
The internet eroded asymmetrical information advantages that knowledge workers benefited from. Now, AI could automate away much of their information processing advantages as well.
This is a blessing in disguise. We're automating away repetitive tasks, freeing up knowledge workers to focus on higher-value work. For those able to provide unique analytical insights or innovative ideas, these advances create opportunities to make more substantive contributions. This transition will separate the critical thinkers who can generate original ideas from those who simply follow established processes. While some may struggle with this evolution, many will thrive in impactful new knowledge careers.
The future belongs to those who can create knowledge, not just process it. Critical thinking and creativity will be the most valuable commodities. Being a knowledge creator will be the key to thriving in the future of work.