Knowing why, knowing how and knowing whom — these are the three pillars of an intelligent career according to Michael Arthur, Priscilla Claman and Robert DeFillippi [(1995) Intelligent enterprise, intelligent careers. Academy of Management Executive, 9(4) 7-19].
The notion of the intelligent career was developed in response to the shift that was taking place in the corporate world in the 1980s and 90s — delayering, downsizing, outsourcing, etc. As part of this transformation, James Brian Quinn proposed that modern intelligent organisations should focus on their core competencies in three arenas: firm culture, know-how and networks.
Arthur et al. suggested that individual career success in such organisations could be founded on three similar personal core competencies or forms of knowing.
- Knowing why — Understanding your motivation for working. Being clear on your values and being able to identify with your work.
- Knowing how — Being aware of the skills and knowledge you bring to your work. Developing abilities to meet the demands of changing roles.
- Knowing whom — Developing and maintaining the relationships that can have an impact on your career. Thinking about your image and reputation with others.
As is my usual habit, I think I have spotted potential parallels with another theory previously discussed in this blog: the Theory of Work Adjustment. Knowing how seems to relate to the correspondence between a person’s abilities and the requirements of the environment leading to satisfactoriness. Knowing why seems to relate to the correspondence between a person’s values and the environment’s reinforcers leading to satisfaction.
Intelligent career adds a third area of correspondence, knowing whom, which looks at both the individual’s and the organisation’s need for connectedness. High levels of correspondence in this area will occur when the networking and relationship needs of the individual also produce benefits for the organisation, and vice versa.
I can also see links with the theory of planned behaviour. Knowing how relates to Control attitudes, Knowing why relates to Behavioural attitudes and Knowing whom relates to Normative attitudes.
In a subsequent article, Michael Arthur and Kerr Inkson talk about the shifts between the three areas of knowing that can happen within career transitions. [Inkson, K & Arthur, M.B. (2001) How to be a successful career capitalist. Organizational Dynamics, 30(1) 48–61.]
- Knowing why to knowing how — Having a clearer motivation for your work could inspire you to acquire new skills and expand your capabilities.
- Knowing why to knowing whom — A commitment to a particular field of work can lead you to seek out people with similar interests or passions.
- Knowing how to knowing whom — Developing and demonstrating an expertise in a particular area can be a means to building a reputation within influential networks and developing new contacts.
- Knowing how to knowing why — Building expertise and developing your skills can help to develop self-confidence and lead to a greater enthusiasm for your work.
- Knowing whom to knowing why — Gaining feedback from influential individuals can increase your motivation and strategic awareness.
- Knowing whom to knowing how — Developing new networks can expose you to best practice and helps you to develop your skills and knowledge.