From Knowledge Worker to Wisdom Worker

Key Takeaways

  • New technologies and social platforms are popping up all the time. If you’re over the age of 40, it may be harder to keep up with it and this might make it seem like you’re getting left behind in the workplace.
  • We have always thought of people in the workplace as knowledge workers, but one gentleman over 50 discovered that he’s a wisdom worker. He spent decades accumulating workplace wisdom that he can share with workers in exchange for their help with the new technologies.
  • Experts say that almost half of workers today answer to bosses who are younger than they are, but this doesn’t have to stop you from applying for most jobs out there, even if they involve technology you haven’t learned yet.
  • Put away the knowledge worker mindset and cultivate the mindset of wisdom worker. Your years in the workforce have given you a huge mass of wisdom that younger people need to learn.
  • Allow those who know the technology to teach you what you need to learn. In return, privately share your wisdom about how to cope with various aspects of the workplace.

Have you heard of Twitch? I only recently heard about it. It’s a social platform that’s based entirely on streaming digital video broadcasts. It’s interesting to learn about these new things, but it just proves that there’s so much new technology out there that I don’t know about. The main reason I’m not aware of these things is because I’m not in that age category anymore—people under the age of 35 or 40.

Recently, I saw a Ted Talk by this guy who looked to be in his mid-50s. He’s the oldest person at his company—most everyone else is in their 20s. His talk focused on changing our whole mindset about how we perceive workers. In the past, and still today, we talk about “knowledge workers.” Instead, this gentleman sees himself as a “wisdom worker.”

His idea about being a wisdom worker has two facets to it. The first facet involves public internship. In other words, this man works for a very popular site (one you all know of) and he’s having to learn an immense amount of new technology on the job. At the same time, most of these younger workers don’t know how to deal with certain issues and challenges that come up in the workplace. It’s this that makes up the second facet because he’s privately mentoring his much younger colleagues with all the wisdom he’s accumulated throughout his career history.

This situation is a very interesting combination of those who have knowledge of this new technology and a person with a great store of wisdom to share in return for his on-the-job training. Supposedly, 40% of people in the workplace today have bosses who are younger than they are. This gentleman, obviously, falls into this category and during his Ted Talk he admits, “I found out something really important: that I’m a wisdom worker.” He goes on to explain that because of this, he can apply to almost any company, regardless of new technology. These young people truly need someone like him to give them wisdom—which takes decades to learn—about dealing with the various aspects of workplace dynamics.

This presents a great example of give and take. The younger people help him learn the technology and he mentors them with his decades of wisdom. Think about shifting your mindset from being a knowledge worker to a wisdom worker. If you do this, I believe you’ll find a lot more opportunities for work due to seeing things from that perspective. Until next time, enjoy.


Gary Klaben is in our Glenview, IL office and serves our clients who are now located all over the country.  He has over 30 years of experience and is the author of Changing the Conversation, Wealth of Everything and co-author of The Business BattlefieldWhether advising his clients, mentoring his team, or coaching entrepreneurs, he is always simplifying complexity and motivating others to take the next action that’s right for them.

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