The above title has some meaning for most baby boomers, but possibly puzzles the subsequent generations. Therein lays the challenge of transitioning intellectual capital from potential retirees to up-and-coming fresh talent, albeit surmountable. The title contains a mild analogy to be explored in this article.
The title is derived from an old movie and song. Essentially, the story chases the elusive meaning of life. The protagonist, Alfie, samples various aspects of life to excess, and to his dismay still feels he’s missing the point. Perhaps what he needs is a mentor to help piece together some of the grey areas that become clearer only with experience gained over the passing of time.
This leads to another puzzle: does Alfie need a coach or a mentor? He seems to have learned some performance skills in life–actually to excess! However, he hasn’t managed to make any sense of them in the grand scheme of things. While a coach examines specific performance competencies and skill sets, a mentor seeks to develop and expand these things beyond the standard towards how they fit into the individualized business and/or life idiosyncrasies.
Over the years, many people have experienced working for different companies. Even if those companies happened to be in the same industry, almost certainly there would have been differences in how they operated and functioned. Most definitely there would have been differences in the work cultures. It is for these reasons that a mentor can be very valuable helping to navigate any murky waters. This is reminiscent of a scene from ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ when the heroine is dismayed after invoking the pirate code ‘parlay’ to protect herself, and the ghostly captain says that it’s not so much a code, as a guideline. These are the things that are almost impossible to write up in an employee handbook or a job description, yet can be invaluable to know for someone new to avoid problems–as is the case with our heroine thinking she has some kind of immunity from the pirates when actually she has not!
All of the above revolves around the subject of intellectual capital–what’s it all about Alfie? This may bring to mind some assets such as patents, trademarks, and copyrights. However, there are more intangible assets such as knowledge gained about organizational inner workings. These can be anything from navigating how inter-departmental functions flow or do not flow, how various personalities mesh or conflict.
In a paper about knowledge management by Jenny Darroch with University of Otago and Rod McNaughton with University of Waterloo, knowledge was described as follows:
Knowledge comprises two types: tacit and explicit. Tacit knowledge is highly people-dependent and is created when insights or experiences are added to information. Tacit knowledge resides within individuals or becomes embedded in organizational routines and procedures. It is non-verbal and so is difficult to articulate, codify, measure, spread and store.
Explicit knowledge is less dependent on people and can be codified, measured, spread or stored. Data are a collection of records or facts. Together, information and data make up explicit knowledge.
That description of tacit knowledge sums up very well why there is a need for mentorship. When one thinks of the saying “Oh the tangled web we weave,” nothing could be truer than when referring to organizations.
Inga Nelson is a Chartered Professional in Human Resources (CPHR) and CPHR Alberta member whose expertise encompasses 18 years of HR Generalist practice with a family business (30 employees) that distributes internationally. Inga also holds an H.R. Management Certificate from the University of Calgary. If you would like to chat more about this topic with Inga, connect with her on Linkedin.