Turning what you 'know' into what you 'do'

October 8, 2009

What do you do with what you know? Particularly if what you ‘know’ isn’t what your current organisation values? How do you turn what you “know” into what you “do”? It’s a subject that has come up for much discussion amongst colleagues and friends these days. Recession, lay offs, mid life turnabouts – they all hinge on the critical question of what one does with the knowledge, experience, wisdom and expertise that years in the workforce (whatever that work has been) has taught us. This is an increasingly difficult question for those who have been employed in ‘jobs’ to answer once those jobs no longer exist – making the shift from being an employee to – well what exactly? is a difficult one – not only because of the difficulty in answering the question ‘what do I do’ but more importantly in identifying what it is we know in order to be able to do something with that knowledge.
My colleague Ian Miller has been researching this area for several years now – his research has come up with these salutary lessons (applicable to the US work market but equally as relevant to that in Europe I would imagine).

  • As of September 2009, there is 1 available job position for every 11 underemployed/unemployed US job-seekers
  • As of August 2008, It took two years for one out of two unemployed workers, aged 50, to find a job; it took twice as long for those over 55. That was before the Recession.


  • Even after severance and benefits run out, Midlife Professionals are left with a uniquely marketable asset: their understanding of their professions and the way work works.

His company Accord Advisory Group has established the Working Knowledge Initiative, which is an ongoing project to assist mid-career professionals leverage the knowledge they have accumulated to start their own entrepreneurial businesses. The project begins on 3 November 2009 and consists of a weekly meeting to help attendees understand the psychological hurdles facing underemployed individuals and; the tools necessary to consider developing their own businesses. Following this small groups will be encouraged to collaborate, share what they know and use that knowledge to develop new business ideas. The groups will be mentored by experienced business consultants and professionals over a three month period.
It seems to me that this is a useful and practical solution to the dilemma many middle aged people find themselves in when faced with job losses because it focusses on the psychological as well as the practical issues at hand. As we know, the emotional impact of this recession is largely a hidden issue and if we can find ways of helping people use their wisdom and emotional intelligence then that can only be a good thing? I also like the fact that it’s based on giving what you know away – as Andrew Taylor discovered – collaboration is a muscle, and it’s also a habit that pays off in the long run.
If you’re interested in participating in the Working Knowledge Initiative then email Ian at the Accord Advisory Group. The initiative is being sponsored by Congregation B’nai Jeshurun in New York, the weekly meetings take place at 10am from 3 November onwards. The first phase of the initiative is free and there’s a minimal charge of $100 for the mentoring phase plus participants are also asked to give back by doing one afternoon’s community service at B’nai Jeshurun.

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