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Typology of Workers

Typology of Workers

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Quick Overview

This model is about dividing workers into 4 categories:

  •        From Follower to Team Player

  •        From Student to Master

  •        From Naive Problem Maker to Innovator

  •        Second Man to Artist.


Related models: DMAICLEANDeming CircleDecision MakingKnowledge DefinitionKnowledge Value ChainKnowledge ConversionLearn and Remember;


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Typology of Workers



The knowledge definition was taken down by Mathieu Paul Weggeman (1953). Weggeman is a business administrator, management consultant and professor of organisational studies at the Eindhoven Technical University. He specialises in knowledge and innovation management. He also wrote the knowledge value chain.

Related models: DMAICLEANDeming CircleDecision MakingKnowledge DefinitionKnowledge Value ChainKnowledge ConversionLearn and Remember;


The model

This model is about dividing workers into 4 categories:

-      From Follower to Team Player

-      From Student to Master

-      From Naive Problem Maker to Innovator

-      Second Man to Artist.



The dominant knowledge source is shown on the x-axis, indicating which interaction is sought and appreciated most by the worker:

-      Internal: with members of the organisation

-      External: with colleagues.


The y-axis shows the dominant type of work:

-      Routine work: method-based

-      Improvising work: personal approach.


Somewhere between routine work and improvising work there is a grey area in which project-based work takes place.

To filter out the ‘knowledge workers’ first we must define ‘knowledge worker’.

A knowledge worker is someone who, in order to perform his primary task to satisfaction, must learn relatively much all the time.

The knowledge worker’s environment is a dynamic one. The technological and economic developments are following each other at a dazzling speed which means whatever is learned becomes outdated in the blink of an eye. In other words, the half-time of the knowledge diminishes. We used to settle for a Cobol course, brushing up our knowledge every now and then and spending the next 30 years building legacy systemsJ. Today whatever you have learned in your first year at the University is usually more or less outdated information by the time you graduate. So the knowledge worker must never stop intensifying his knowledge which matters within the current or new context. Of course knowledge itself is never outdated, but it is the change of context that can make the knowledge gained less relevant or even useless. See also Mathieu Weggeman’s Knowledge Value Chain.

The knowledge workers in this model are the (future) Innovators and (future) Artists. The reason is this: routine activities are carried out in a relatively stable environment which means the knowledge halftime is less small. So you can use the knowledge you have to do the ‘trick’ for a little longer.

Of course now you have a few professions in mind which you categorise into quadrants. This is good to a certain extent. Instinctively you might say a surgeon must be an Artist. C-sections, however, have been performed in the same way for many years. In any case considering the lady undergoing the C-section… So it strongly depends on the attitude of the worker in question and how he wishes to proceed. The surgeon performing a hernia surgery on a Japanese in Tokyo from Boston using video screens and cameras is one of those artists as far as we are concerned.

The “Law of Large Numbers”, however, does provide a classification worth the effort.


How to use it


For yourself

First of all it is interesting to decide on the category to which you belong. Obviously this depends on your role or position. In other words, you need not stick to our category throughout your working life. If you are one of the knowledge workers, or in case you should act like one, be aware of the continuous necessity to enrich yourself by creating knowledge, transferring knowledge and dismissing knowledge that no longer matters (to the context). The time you spend doing this can no longer be used for gaining ‘new’ knowledge.


For the organisation

Workers outside the ‘knowledge workers’ category are usually easier to replace compared to the knowledge workers. But this is not always the case. We are familiar with the shortage of nursing staff or orchestras and choirs losing members due to the ageing population. But these are different reasons and it is not about the required knowledge of these professions being difficult to replace.


To hold on to your knowledge workers Weggeman says the following:

-      Make sure the valued knowledge workers have no intention of leaving the organisation.

-      Make sure ‘tacit knowledge’ is made explicit as much as possible and make sure it is made available for the organisation.

To meet the first aspect developing a collective ambition together is mentioned. Provided the organisation’s mission and vision have been determined together, the odds are that it will be realised. Also, it will give substance to the ‘4 pillars of commitment’ that help knowledge workers remain interested in your organisation.

The second aspect means that a culture is required whereby experiences with implemented work can be shared with the rest of the organisation. Knowledge workers who create, share, apply and evaluate knowledge will determine that they have proceeded differently. Procedures went differently, analyses were tackled differently, working methods were developed into the next stage and intrinsically advanced insight was gained. All of this should in one way or another be registered and shared with the rest of the organisation. And to complete the circle, use this new knowledge at the start of a new programme/project or activities. But of course that is needless to say. We’ve been doing that for years already, haven’t we….?

Good luck to you!


Related models: 


-   LEAN

-   Deming Circle

-   Decision Making

-   Knowledge Definition

-   Knowledge Value Chain

-   Knowledge Conversion

-   Learn and Remember;


-       Artikel “Kennismanagement: de modus operandi voor een lerende organisatie (Mathieu Weggeman)

-       Wikipedia

-       Leidinggeven aan Professionals, Niet Doen!, Weggeman, EAN: 9789055943524

-       Kennismanagement: de praktijk, Weggeman, EAN: 9789055941803


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