Zettelkasten Forum

Knowledge Work vs Creative Knowledge Work

edited February 2018 in Random

Hi folks,

I am tinkering [with] the wording for what we are doing here. In German I use "Wissensarbeit" which is translated to "knowledge work". In German, I feel ok but in English the wording doesn't feel right.

I had the idea to just say "creative knowledge work". But I am hanging in air at the moment.

Do you have any ideas?

Best to You

EDIT: For grammar.

Post edited by Sascha on

I am a Zettler


  • OK -- just to indicate where I'm coming from, I'm a native English speaker (British), 65 years old, I spent 10 years teaching English at universities in Italy, and last worked marking English exams (by the thousand) for Cambridge English. Pretty much all levels including Proficiency and CAE.

    There is nothing wrong with saying "creative knowledge work", in my view, but is that the same concept as you have expressed in German? In my humble opinion it is not the words that count so much as the concept. I've just had an exchange with a friend at the Politecnico in Milan on precisely this question. Sometimes a single word in one language can express several different things at the same time, but these cannot be expressed by a single word in another language. In which case one has to resort to a phrase, sometimes more, to communicate fully the concept that is found in the original. So I guess the question really is "what concept is expressed by the German word 'Wissensarbeit'?" Does the German word contain some sense of creativity or not? If not, then the inclusion of the word "creative" in the English text does not reflect the meaning of the German.

    And incidentally, it is "tinkering WITH' :smiley: )


  • edited February 2018

    @Sascha I know I have bugged you enough on this very topic!

    Coming from an American's perspective, a knowledge worker is defined as "workers whose main capital is knowledge". Anyone who has to "think for a living". Essentially anyone in the white collar space would fit under the knowledge worker category.

    With this definition, knowledge work is thus the product or process involved in one's work as a knowledge worker.

    Peter Drucker makes the only the only other distinction from knowledge work as manual work. Under this distinction the term is almost too broad to mean much.

    That being said...technically what you are doing here IS knowledge work.

    Is "creative" the right word to add more specificity? I think that's what you're after. I think yes it could be a good term.

    This takes me back to the Steve Jobs quote:

    Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn't really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while.”

    If the ZK method is all about connecting ideas together, then one could argue you are engaging in creative work, if you side with Jobs' concept.

  • Of course, in the old days, people who did this sort of thing were called "intellectuals", but that seems to be a term of abuse now :smile:

    I suppose if you wanted to take a chance you could call it "intellectual work" -- then wait for the backlash ...

  • edited February 2018

    I think the intention of adding "creative" to "knowledge work" is meant to specify that it's more about writing than it is about doing accounting. If my assumption is correct, then I would find it more specific in a more clarifying way to call it "scientific knowledge work".

  • Engineering is creative knowledge work, too, so I find "creative knowledge work" not a good match. Actually, "Wissensarbeit" suffers from a similar problem that "knowledge work" suffers: It's just too broad of a term to be consumed entirely by Zettelkasten work. I would argue that accounting, engineering, architecting are all both "knowledge work" and "Wissensarbeit", too. "Wissensarbeit" seems to have a more "intellectual" connotation in (common) German. But, at least in my understanding, it only really defines intellectual work as opposed to producing material goods by means of manual labour.

  • One more thing: Maybe something along the lines of "knowledge production (work)", while probably not 100% what you meant, is still a good candidate, too.

  • Mmh. I still don't know what to do about it.

    It is a tricky one. I know what I am doing but still have no proper name for it.

    I am a Zettler

  • @Sascha said:
    I know what I am doing

    Lucky you -- I wish I did ... ;)

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