Luciana Delle DonneI’ve been invited to the “Scuola di Economia Civile” in the wonderful surroundings of Figline Valdarno - Tuscany - and I had the pleasure to talk about know-how and know-why after a great lecture on virtues by Luigino Bruni and the moving project by Luciana Delle Donne madeincarcere. Both Luigino and Luciana are strongly committed in their know-why.


Why or How? Know-how or know-why? Is this the big dilemma?

From Wikipedia: [Know-how] “It is also often referred to as street smarts (sometimes conceived as opposed to book smarts), and a person employing their street smarts as streetwise. Know-how is often tacit knowledge, which means that it can be difficult to transfer to another person by means of writing it down or verbalising it. The opposite of tacit knowledge is explicit knowledge.”

Knowledge is like money: it is something that you can have. Just build and put the knowledge in the know-how. Know-how is like a piggy bank where you save your money. But once you have money and assume you have got the financial freedom, what then? How about happiness, life, satisfaction, sense of belonging? Can we save satisfaction as we did with the money? Can we save smiles for happiness?

Shortly, the answer is: no, we can’t. Happiness is a status of being and you cannot “have” it. It is inner answers which are making you happy. Often people start being happy when they are working and walking on the path to their know-why. It is like a light which is embodying “the me” encapsulated in “the us” that sits within all the stakeholders.

The big dilemma:

  • why do I exist? which one is my main purpose in life?
  • why do we exist? which is our mission together?
  • Why are we part of the system?

The know-why means understanding the context and the value of your actions. And, if we consider the several aspects of life, we should ask ourselves the role of corporations in the why of workers.

During the past 50 years, people were following their why outside their job. But everything has changed and people get flooded by companies. For different reasons, they have no energy to get home and think about their personal why.

Companies have to take care of this and behave like a platform where people can find and develop their why. The why of all of us, which is the purpose of the company, and the why of the workers, plus the one of the company in the world ecosystem.

The Real Me implements a strategy that encourages people to declare the signs they want to leave in the world through their work. It is not a business matter, it’s a personal thing. We are hiring only people that are serious towards the world we live in. If the person is not able to describe it, we run special workshops to help identify the first idea of their why. It’s the first step and we know that this idea can change and evolve in short terms. But, it’s a start. We call it the Personal Impact Idea and it is basically where people declare why they work.
Based on this, we work out a formula and adapt the PII into something that is measurable and that fits into some SDG’s target. We agree on OKRs with numbers and then different prizes when reaching those goals. The formula attached to the PII is defining the way the person is making an impact. Achievements on PII can be linked to salary increases that are evaluated year after year, for example.

The Real Us

A company must consider in their strategy a way to grow the PII and then transition the PII into a much more common goal: purpose.

It happens when all the employees are also putting their values towards a common impact goal. This is the genuine US! And once the real Us is coming out, we see a new force rising. People are committed to success and together they find the reason to work. Things like altruism, loyalty then emerge. “Together” starts with good and healthy practices such as building a handbook and measuring the impact.

As we have seen for the real me, a prize would honour the achievements. Stickers, badges or medal are good to recognize the value. They are distinctive in the group.

At this stage, we are shaping the know-why we exist.

We are all interdependent

In my opinion, the know-why ends with the idea that we are all interdependent. It’s the extension of the “real Us” to the entire world. With all the stakeholders. What is the real why on things? Why Suppliers and Customers are part of the ecosystem? How are we all interdependent? When signing an agreement with a customer we should ask the real why which is not only the things we will deliver. If we sit together around a table and we discuss it, we can highlight the impact we are creating and make it precious.

The know-why is like a rising Sun: it expands when thinking bigger and, like the rays of the Sun, the bigger embrace the smaller and the smaller enlights the furthest.