Thomas Davenport classifies Knowledge Work Types in Thinking for a Living: How to Get Better Performances And Results from Knowledge Workers using a variety of classifications. One was based on the complexity of the work. Work that requires greater interpretation/judgment vs. work that is relatively routine. He also classified these according to the level of dependence on others. Within that he then defined the following types of knowledge workers:
- Transaction Worker - Routine, individual, ex. call center.
- Integration Worker - Routine, collaborative, ex. systems development
- Expert Worker - Interpretation/judgment, individual, ex. family physician
- Collaboration Worker - Interpretation/judgment, collaborative, ex. investment banker
When you look around many organizations, I believe you find a lot of workers spending greater portions of their days as concept workers. Think about the following areas:
- Product Design
In the world of learning, it's determining how to handle particular performance needs, learning needs. Where do authoring tools, LMS fit? What about eLearning 2.0? There are no right answers, and a lot of interpretation and judgment required.
In Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything, Don Tapscott discusses exactly the change towards concept work:
At the same time, the nature of work itself is changing. Work has become more cognitively complex, more team-based and collaborative, more dependent on social skills, more time pressured, more reliant on technological competence, more mobile, and less dependent on geography. Many employees are already given far more autonomy to decide how and where they want to work. A growing number of firms are decentralizing their decision-making function, communicating in a peer-to-peer fashion, and embracing new technologies that empower employees to communicate easily and openly with people inside and outside the firm.I just saw that there was a Wikipedia article on the Conceptual Economy talking about Pink, Friedman and other perspectives on the move towards greater cognitive oriented work - more judgment and interpretation - more conceptual. Interestingly, the article did not refer to Concept Work or Concept Workers.
Hope this helps clarify.