Oct 19, 2007

Unlearning about careers

I was going through this article that Dr. Madhukar Shukla wrote on Knowledge Workers: Implications for HR practices some time ago when this final passage jumped out at me:

it is important to appreciate that in the contemporary dynamic and changing world, knowledge depreciates and becomes outdated quickly. Moreover, emergence of new business realities and technologies also provide both a threat to older skills as well as opportunities for acquiring new skills. For instance, many expertise areas have lost their lustre during last few years, just as many of the new knowledge-based jobs - e.g., forex expert, web designer, derivative analyst, patent manager, etc. - have become important within just last one decade.

The implications for the career of the knowledge worker are significant. Conventional careers were built on skills and competencies which evolved in a linear manner - career moves were essentially moving up the hierarchy - either within or across the organisations. But for the knowledge workers, careers progression can be only across new skill- and knowledge-base which routinely becomes outdated and irrelevant. The key agenda for managing the careers for knowledge workers would be to facilitate such discontinuous shifts across skill-sets.

So the most important skills for this new age would not be a 'skill' but rather a mindset - that one needs to cultivate, of being a person who can let go of the past and unlearn faster and faster. Of course, this took me back to the two kinds of people that Dr. Udai Pareek's instrument talked about... enfolders and enlargers. It looks like it currently is the age for enlargers, and will be so for a long time.