What you know vs. Who you know vs. Why do you do this at all – is it really a “versus” or is it a holy trinity?

why how whom

Finally, my MBA dissertation topic stands.

It is about the challenges for freelancers in an increasingly competitive environment and the choices for them to select the right mix of ingredients for a sustainable career – in terms of knowing why, how and whom.

Do skills matter, do freelancers need to develop their knowledge – corporations have entire departments focussing on learning & development….

Is it better to be a generalist or an expert/specialist? Are freelancers expected to be jacks-of-all-trades, being their own CEO, CFO, CTO, CMO and CSO (and in a way their own HR Manager – schizophrenia not required, I’m talking about learning and development  here i.e. the what you know)?

Or is it really about who you know – someone that acts as your “door-opener”, word-of-mouth-free-of-charge-marketer? Is it the quantity or the quality of your network – and how about the strength of weak ties (Granovetter)?

This is what I am trying to find out with my qualitative research for my dissertation – based on the wonderful framework called the “intelligent career framework” (DeFillippi et al, further discussed by Parker et al and finally taken towards the freelancers’ world by Dutch academics van den Born and van Witteloostuijn)

I am going to look at these “drivers of freelance career success”, in other words, the knowing why (your personal capital – your identity, personality and values, the reasons why you do things, your motivation), knowing how (your human capital – your skills, experience, competencies, knowledge) and of course your knowing whom (your social or relational capital – network, relationships, reputation, alliances).

The trick will be not to be subjective. I mustn’t turn this into an either / or scenario but tickle out views from my interviewees that may even suggest that there’s a little more than the three knowings mentioned above.

Or, as someone at a networking event at the IOD said yesterday: It’s not what you know it’s whether you know how to use it. And it’s also where to use it and when. From a future perspective, as strategies only make sense looking forward, not backwards, there’s also the topic of not running out of motivation or steam – as my previous post said: the loneliness of a long-distance runner…. freelancers also suffer from loneliness, underlying values such as belonging might be something you miss when you’re a sole trader. As a consequence, I believe the why is really important – your personality, and your personal development – your emotional resilience especially.

As I embark on my research, I must, above all, remain objective and unbiased when interviewing the research participants. But all will be well in the end. And if it’s not well, it’s not the end yet, as we know from the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.

Just like my learning journey hasn’t come to an end either. It has only just begun.



Correlation between learning styles and sport styles or: the loneliness of a long distance runner

One of the hypotheses I recently made (but yet need to find corroborating stats for) was that there might be a connection between the learning styles of a long distance runner vs. those of a short distance runner.

Would the hypothesis stand if I claimed that

  • long distance runners are used to have long-term stamina and patience, thus may also be better suited to work on their own (“the loneliness of a long distance runner”) – would this imply that they are more successful in long-term projects, and stay longer with a company (“loyalty”)? Would they fall under Belbin’s completer/finisher or Gardener’s intelligence type of INTRAPERSONAL (inner)?
  • short distance runners have short bursts of energy, and a lot of that, thus may be more extrovert and enthusiastic, better suited to work in a team and give off some of that energy – would this imply they’re good at short -term projects but run out of steam quickly and then move on? i.e. they would not be “completer/finishers” according to Belbin or  would they match Gardener’s intelligence type of INTERPERSONAL (social)

This topic has occupied me since I started my MBA at Henley Business School. And in case you are wondering, I am a short distance runner/swimmer.

To quote Iron Maiden (“The loneliness of a long distance runner”)

Run, on and on, run, on and on,
The loneliness of the long distance runner.

I’ve got to keep running the course,
I’ve got to keep running and win at all costs,
I’ve got to keep going, be strong,
Must be so determined and push myself on.