“‘Just-in-time knowledge’ – your ability to access the right knowledge, at the right time, for the right purpose – will be the key to success in your more complex future!” – Futurist Jim Carroll
Flashback – I’m on stage on this day in 2015 to open a meeting for the global human resource leadership executives for Honeywell. My focus was on emerging skills and HR trends in the aerospace, materials science, and building technology industries. Like most others, each of these industries face major skills challenges in a world of relentless, accelerating change.
“‘Just-in-time knowledge?’ It’s a phrase I coined way back in 1997 when I almost wrote a book called “Nomadic Workers – Business Organizations and Strategies for the New Millennium.“. I even had a mock cover for it! It didn’t become a book but morphed into content and part of the structure for another book I wrote at the time, Surviving the Information Age. Here’s a glimpse of the cover that never was!
Nomadic workers? Today, we call it the ‘gig economy’ or other phrases. It’s a very real and significant trend, and I pretty much nailed the reality of where we are today some twenty-five years ago. While I didn’t get a full book about it, I certainly outlined the trend, as global workforces migrated to a structure in which access to skills became critical – and many of those skills exist within a highly specialized, mobile, accessible-from-anywhere workforce.
I must have been on to something – I developed a full keynote topic around the idea, and that led to dozens of keynotes for the workforce, skills, associations, and HR conferences over the years, eventually leading to an opening keynote for the global WorldSkills conference later that year in Sao Paolo, Brazil.
It’s fun to look back at what I wrote in 1997 when I conceived of the topic that would lead to the stage for this particular event 18 years later. (Click for a PDF). Being verbose was not a skill back then. (PDF)
Much of my thinking was based on my own experience – I ditched the typical career path and began working in a home office, the future that many others would discover along the way – particularly during the pandemic. And so, in my brochure, I describe the office. LOL! (PDF)
The trend? From 1997:
The number of full time jobs has begin to dramatically shrink – yet, we are only seeing the tip of the iceberg in the change of the relationship between employer and employee, as the nomadic worker becomes the dominant form of corporate resource.
Companies will hire the best talent, regardless of where that person might be. A new form of career competitiveness is emerging, with extreme competition for this group of nomadic workers – highly skilled individuals who call the shots.
Where people work from won’t matter – a trend that has implications for the future of both rural and urban economies.
Lifestyle choice will come to dominate career decisions. The nomadic worker carries different attitudes towards life and work, and rejects many of the currently accepted “norms” of the corporate environment.
Their attitudes will revolutionize the world of work.
The shape of tomorrow’s company won’t be defined by the walls in its offices – it will be defined by the reach of its computerized knowledge network, and its ability to tap into the skills and capabilities of the nomadic worker, wherever they might be.
Many of the organizations who bring me in for a CEO-level leadership meeting, board retreat, or staff event want to focus on a message that revolves around the idea of ‘how can we innovate faster.’ They recognize that, obviously, their access to skills has a big impact on their ability to do this. And so, HR and just-in-time knowledge became a natural fit for a trend I focus on.
The bottom line is simple:
- the ability to obtain rapid, instant knowledge generation is becoming an urgent necessity in almost every field of endeavor;
- the ability to quickly digest, understand and assess new knowledge is an increasingly important skill – one that not a lot of organizations have mastered;
- the ability to reformulate our thinking, assumptions, and capabilities to respond to the constant change being thrust upon an organization is of increasing importance
Just in time knowledge involves a form of continuous learning that is instant, fast, and urgent – and if an organization is to succeed in the future, it must be a master of the ability to succeed with just-in-time knowledge.