Getting From Information To Knowledge And Ultimately Expertise
I spend a considerable time consuming information, in fact I probably spend more time reading, listening and watching work related content than I do any other activity in my day. Consuming for it’s own sake though isn’t very satisfying, I need a purpose in life and that purpose is enabled, but not delivered by consumption.
In order to be useful the information needs to be curated, turned from a set of random facts into a structured model of the world, into connections, trends and predictions. Ideas need to gradually be shaped, honed by discussion and tested against reality.
These ideas then need to be applied to solve real world challenges, develop the business, improve peoples lives. They won’t be right but I learn from applying them, sometimes hard lessons.
Often the idea is right, but the timing is wrong or I don’t sell it well enough, or put enough energy into it to make it scale. There’s lot that can go wrong between an idea and a result, a lot to learn.
Learning from experience, refining ideas, changing approach or timing is the process that turns raw knowledge into expertise, it’s often subtle changes that make all the difference between success and failure, good and great. Often in the IT industry we don’t get chance to develop deep expertise in any one area, because change is so rapid, but learning from applying many related ideas does prove useful. Observing others following the same process is useful too.
Finally I think it’s important to share, both the process and the outcomes, both good and bad. Sharing forces me to work through what I’ve learned, to internalise it in a way that nothing else ever does. I can do this by explaining/teaching or coaching/mentoring, but I also like to share on my blog which is much more scalable and provides me with an archive to help me recall the knowledge again in the future.
As I’ve written this blog for example I’ve got a clearer picture of the yawning gulf that exists between information and knowledge and between knowledge and expertise, and just how often we confuse the them.
The photo today is of the river the runs through Cambridge University where my daughter was studying at the time I took the picture. I took it on the way to Caffe Nero where I do a lot of the reading, curating and sharing process described in this blog post.