What Does the Knowledge Economy Physically Look Like?

What makes up the "tangible" knowledge economy?

While we understand that knowledge sharing and knowledge management are an important tool for companies trying to create a more productive and collaborative culture, we talk about it mostly conceptually. But what does the knowledge economy actually look like, tangibly?

An article on Skift, a travel news site, took a look at the expansions and upgrades Frankfurt International Airport has undergone in recent years. In the article, a source – the managing facility director at the time – offered up an interesting quote regarding the long-term goals of the airport and the city:

“The city of the future is an international, interdisciplinary knowledge-sharing machine … this is about finding the strengths of our strengths, our core competencies, and for Germany, that’s knowledge and infrastructure. It’s also about connecting ideas.”

And with that, we are able to visualize what the knowledge economy looks like extended beyond the office and into the physical infrastructure. We’ve said before that knowledge is the new capital, and the economy is more global than it’s ever been, so it makes sense that in order to connect those workers, infrastructure needs to be able to facilitate these connections by providing accessible meeting places.

It’s tempting to frame knowledge sharing as a procedural tool for companies to encourage employee participation and buy-in, but due to the increasing value of knowledge workers and the knowledge economy, it’s clear that there are ripple effects. Although we encourage organizations looking to promote organic knowledge management to understand the importance of a digital forum, it is also critical to understand that even with a strong online platform, many organizations also value the importance of in-person communication and collaboration.

In the United States, companies that deploy knowledge management and knowledge sharing practices are often seen as progressive and desirable places to work. But what if the country started thinking about its main travel hubs as not only transition points for tourism or business, but as key cogs in the greater knowledge economy? The importance of face-to-face interaction for the sharing of organic knowledge can not only help facilitate the creativity and collaboration that is valued in today’s marketplace but also build trust. As the article notes, “The levels of risk and uncertainty that are associated with tacit knowledge transfer are reduced by trusting relationships.”

So, with this in mind, what do we envision the knowledge economy looking like? It’s global travel; it’s the seamless integration of digital and face-to-face communities; it’s the abolishment of traditional sharing roadblocks like technology or interest; and, perhaps most importantly, it is even more humanized than it’s ever been. The value of the individual and the knowledge being shared by that individual has never been greater. That is the global knowledge economy.

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