Knowmads: the future of work and education

The nomadic knowledge workers are better equipped to adapt and bring their skills in a world engulfed with accelerating technological, social, and economic change. 45% of the Western workforce will be knowmadic by the year 2020. The challenge for education is to prepare students for future work under this profile. Interview with John Moravec, ‎Founder and Principal Member of Education Futures LLC.


John Moravec is a scholar on the future of work and education; a global speaker; editor of the Knowmad Society project; a co-director of the Invisible Learning project.


He is concerned about human capital development as society approaches an increasingly complex and ambiguous future. Technological change drives social change, and the impact of these changes is accelerating exponentially. Our schools, universities, and other knowledge-based institutions must leap ahead of this curve for all people to compete in highly globalized, knowledge- and innovation-based societies.


John’s research and action scholarship agendas are focused on exploring the convergence of globalization, innovation society, and accelerating change in human knowledge development; and, building positive futures for knowledge creation systems in an era of exponential uncertainty. His work focuses on exploring the emerging “Knowmad Paradigm,” and the new approaches to leadership and human capital development required. This approach is global, and he is most actively engaged in research and collaborations in the United States, Latin America, and Europe. In addition to editing Knowmad Society (2013, Education Futures), he is the co-author of the book Invisible Learning (2011, University of Barcelona Press).


What is a knowmad?


A knowmad is a nomadic knowledge worker –that is, a creative, imaginative, and innovative person who can work with almost anybody, anytime, and anywhere. Industrial society is giving way to knowledge and innovation work.


Whereas industrialization required people to settle in one place to perform a very specific role or function, the jobs associated with knowledge and information workers have become much less specific concerning task and place.


Moreover, technologies allow for these new paradigm workers to work within broader options of space, including “real,” virtual, or blended. Knowmads can instantly reconfigure and recontextualize their work environments, and greater mobility is creating new opportunities.


Knowmads apply what they know contextually to solve new problems in different situations – perhaps in different organizations – or even different fields. Context workers are always focused on adding VALUE to the jobs and work they engage in. If they cannot, then it is time to move on.



  • Can be anybody, at any age
  • Leverage personal knowledge
  • Contextually apply what they know
  • Are motivated to collaborate
  • Purposively use new technologies
  • Share what they know
  • Learn, unlearn, and adopt new ideas as necessary
  • Thrive in non-hierarchical organizations
  • Learn continuously
  • Are not afraid of failure



What are the competitive advantages that have knowmads in the knowledge economy, face to the challenges presented by the current job market?


In a world engulfed with accelerating technological, social, and economic change, knowmads are better equipped to adapt and bring their skills to new situations.


Do you talk about an emergency situation in the knowmatic society?


I don’t talk about an emergency situation, although I sometimes wonder if I should do! Here’s the bottom line of where I see a crisis in education: The impact of the remixing of places and social relationships (evident in the rise of a Knowmad Society) on education cannot be ignored any longer. Students in Knowmad Society should learn, work, play, and share in almost any configuration. Nevertheless, there is little evidence to support any claim that education systems are moving toward a knowmad- enabled paradigm. We need to ask ourselves: What are we educating for? Are we educating to create factory workers and bureaucrats? Or, are we educating to create innovators, capable of leveraging their imagination and creativity?


What is the future of work and education?


45% of the Western workforce will be knowmadic by the year 2020 — for those of us participating in the EXPO LEARNING.UY 2016 event, probably most of us will be knowmads. This is huge portion considering that we will still have “traditional” forms of work in factories, farms, offices, schools, etc.


The challenge for education is to prepare students for future work under this profile.


What points of convergence have globalization, innovation society and the accelerated change?


We are hitting the limits of human imagination on a global scale. The world is happening too fast. This means that many of us will not be able to train or prepare for jobs that we know will exist. Rather, we need to train for jobs and roles that do not exist yet, and prepare for work that is outside of our imagination.


What is the impact that the invisible learning has today in the education?


The challenge for schools and learning programs is now to enable individuals to thrive in a world that needs more imaginative, creative, and innovative talent, not generic workers that can fill seats at an office or factory. The pathway to meeting this requirement is through the development of schooling environments and professional learning settings that foster invisible learning.


The Theory for Invisible Learning is that we learn more, and do so invisibly, when we separate structures of control that restrict freedom and self-determination from learning experiences.


The purpose of controlling an educational experience is to make learning visible. It is built on distrust of the learner – the false assumption that students will not learn unless they are told what to learn. In this sense, invisible learning is the end product of a theory which predicts that learning may blossom when we eliminate authoritarian control or direction of a learning experience by an “other” (i.e., teacher).


Removing structures of control opens possibilities. The end outcomes or goals of an experience are neither dictated nor determined from the start, but instead emerge as learning develops. Such experiences include free play, self-organized learning communities, authentic problem-based learning, and experimentation to acquire new knowledge.


A Theory for Invisible Learning is focused on the Development of personal knowledge: blends of tacit and explicit elements that embrace a portfolio of skills such as cooperation, empathy, and critical thinking as much as retaining facts. The implication is that there is no master template for enabling invisible learning, but rather we need to attend to the formation of an ecology of options for individuals to find their own ways. This suggests a growing need for bottom-up approaches to learning. By removing the rigidity of top-down control, and placing trust in learners, invisible learning can be made visible.


October 2016