Big corporations must make sweeping organizational changes to get the best from their professionals.
Lowell L. Bryan and Claudia Joyce
2005 Number 3
About half a century ago, Peter Drucker coined the term "knowledge worker" to describe a new class of employee whose basic means of production was no longer capital, land, or labor but, rather, the productive use of knowledge. Today, these knowledge workers, who might better be called professionals, represent a large and growing percentage of the employees of the world's biggest corporations. In industries such as financial services, health care, high tech, pharmaceuticals, and media and entertainment, professionals now account for 25 percent or more of the workforce and, in some cases, undertake most typical key line activities. These talented people are the innovators of new business ideas. They make it possible for companies to deal with today's rapidly changing and uncertain business environment, and they produce and manage the intangible assets that are the primary way companies in a wide array of industries create value.
Productive professionals make big enterprises competitive, yet these employees now increasingly find their work obstructed. Creating and exchanging knowledge and intangibles through interaction with their professional peers is the very heart of what they do. Yet most of them squander endless hours searching for the knowledge they needeven if it resides in their own companiesand coordinating their work with others.
The inefficiency of these professionals has increased along with their prominence. Consider the act of collaboration. Each upsurge in the number of professionals who work in a company leads to an almost exponentialnot linearincrease in the number of potential collaborators and unproductive interactions. Many leading companies now employ 10,000 or more professionals, who have some 50 million potential bilateral relationships. The same holds true... [continues]
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