The Paradox of a Knowmad: Daring Not to Know
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The Paradox of a Knowmad: Daring Not to Know

What exactly is a Knowmad?

The definition of Knowmad was first coined by Dr. John Moravic, professor of developmental education:

“A [Knowmad is a] nomadic knowledge and innovation worker – that is, a creative, imaginative, and innovative person who can work with almost anybody, anytime, and anywhere”.

We agree with other supplements to Moravic’s definition; for example, that “Knowmads can instantly reconfigure and recontextualize [sic] their work environments and relationships” (Moravic, Knowmad Society, 2013).

However, the part about being a “knowledge worker” is where Knowmads gives the philosophy a twist. Instead of working with what we already know, we go a level deeper: the how we know what we know. It takes careful picking apart of your worldview, and keen re-assembly of it with brand-new eyes. At Knowmads you are given the resources to re-learn how to learn.

And this shift produces a completely different person. This person learns quickly from situations that look ordinary to the average eye. These learnings are then applied to a wide range of situations in more efficient, more effective ways: hence what Moravic says about re-configuring and re-contextualizing the Knowmadic environment.

A wise scientist (Einstein) once said, “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it”.

When you reach this new mindset, you can’t go back.

Instead of priding themselves on memorized knowledge, Knowmads are curious and humble.

A Knowmad knows that he or she can only glimpse a small slice of reality, and therefore is always open to new insights. This is where the personal development component comes into play. It is essentially knocking down the ego that would have blinded you to how much there is yet to know.

That is the big paradox of being a Knowmad: a term that implies you know it all, actually means that you first admit you know nothing. Then you open yourself up to learn everything (while being aware that you will never know it all as a human being).

And with the new learnings you suddenly see everywhere, life spins you in completely new directions, setting you down on paths you would have never seen yourself following. You begin to follow your intuition and heed the little intelligent voice inside you that says whether something is in alignment with your values or not. Soon you arrive; you check in with yourself a few months later and go ‘wow, maybe it wasn’t how I expected it would work out, but I actually completed a big life goal.’

And you never stop arriving: It is a series of plugging away, doing your work as a student of life, and waking up to be conscious of where you are now and how far you’ve come, over and over and over again. Once you begin to work like a Knowmad, it never stops. As once said in a legendary Transition Out of Knowmads workshop given to Tribe 14, “buckle up, kids, you’ve got homework for life”.

You can’t go back to sleep. It’s freedom, it’s responsibility, and it’s truly seizing life, all at once.

Maybe you’re thinking now that you’d love to be this person conscious of the impact your actions can have, and conscious of all there is yet to learn and improve upon, and how to go about doing that. It’s an abstract, precise science to work like a Knowmad. It requires a certain set of life skills that once you have, you will use for the rest of your life.

So how do I become Knowmadic in my way of life?

In our 6-month program, there are five questions that form the guiding framework of the curriculum.

But in the first week, you formulate a question of your own, that contains within it why you came to Knowmads.

You begin to dig into this question. In the first two weeks you peel away all its layers to come to the core of it, your Learning Question. This Learning Question is then your guiding focus that accompanies you throughout the rest of your Knowmads journey. Only you can answer it.

And you will answer the five program questions yourself, too:

Who am I?

In what world do I want to live?

What do I want to contribute/change?

How do I create the organization/project to get it done?

How do I bring it into the world?

And you answer those questions with more questions, as is intended. They will reveal to you the skills you need to cultivate to reach your goals, and then you design your curriculum accordingly to fill those gaps.

So in that case, you are a Knowmad not because of what you do know, but because you dare to admit that you don’t.

At Knowmads, we work with questions, not answers because nothing is fixed.

We live in permanent uncertainty due to rapidly-evolving technology and accelerating social change, so to be prepared and flexible, we work with questions.

We don’t know the answers to the questions of tomorrow. We don’t even know what the questions will be.

We don’t even know the answers to the current disruptions happening in society.

We dare to not know.

That is why the ultimate purpose of Knowmads is to create the mindset that is ready for any uncertainty. We believe that an open, adaptive, creative mind that turns obstacle into opportunity, combined with a courageous heart and a perseverant will, is prepared for anything.

So I now give you our own working definition of what means to be a Knowmad.

We dare to not know, but to act, to improvise, and to experiment anyway.

We dare to embrace the only knowledge that is certain: that we cannot know everything.

That is why we are Knowmads. That is why the call for Knowmads in society is so strong right now. It is those among us who dare to be open, humble students of life that will tinker around and stumble upon solutions to the world’s most pressing problems.

Einstein once said, “It’s not that I am so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer”.

It is the Knowmads who will make it possible for the human race to continue.

I’ll leave you with a final Einstein quote to sum it up:

“I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious.”


Written by Emily Vierthaler



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